Monday 24 July 2017

Charity shop boss guilty of harassing staff and customer

Michael Dooley outside Dundalk District Court yesterday
Michael Dooley outside Dundalk District Court yesterday

Elaine Keogh

A FORMER president of a local St Vincent de Paul group was found guilty yesterday of harassing four women who either worked in or visited one of its charity shops.

Michael Dooley (73), of Lennon Melia Terrace, Dundalk, Co Louth, faced four allegations of harassing the women at the St Vincent de Paul shop on Jocelyn Street in the town on dates between January 1, 2001, and December 30, 2009.

A special sitting of Dundalk District Court yesterday heard that Dooley had put a tape around one woman to measure her bra size and he had given another woman a 'present' of a red thong.

Three of the women were working in the shop because of a placement there through Fas. The fourth, who visited workers in it, was described as having a learning disability.

Convicting Dooley, Judge Flann Brennan said he was satisfied that all the women, who asked to remain anonymous, "were in a vulnerable position" because they perceived themselves to be employees and perceived Dooley "to be the employer".

The court heard that hugging was commonplace in the shop, and staff, volunteers and customers would often be greeted with a hug.

The first woman said the accused "kept hugging and kissing me and feeling my bum".

Comments

She worked there in 2009 and said he would also look down her top. She wore high-neck tops to work because of this. She said he would make comments such as, "smile if you got it last night".

The second woman worked in the shop from 2001 to 2005 and said he would talk about the size of her breasts.

As she was serving a customer one day she said he came in with a brown paper bag in which he said there was a present for her -- it was a red thong. She also claimed he put his hand up her back and opened the clasp on her bra.

The witness agreed she was dismissed because she had stolen some perfume. She said she had owned up to it and claimed she was not the only person who took "stuff" from the premises.

He was her supervisor and she had asked him to stop, she said. It made her feel "dirty" she said.

She agreed with defence counsel Ciaran Oakes that the inappropriate comments being complained of were something that people engaged in and were commonplace in the shop. The third woman said that when he heard she had become a grandmother, Dooley had said "can I have a bit of this woman".

She said she used to push him away but was afraid to report him because he was her boss.

The fourth woman, who was described as having learning disabilities, used to visit relations who worked in the shop. She said he would measure her for her bra size and sometimes he would give her "skimpy tops to put on" and feel her bottom.

The court heard from the Fas supervisor, Ellen Cassidy, that she was never hugged by him. She said that he told one woman she "had a fine arse". She told him that if he said it to her she would have him up in front of the local court.

The court heard Dooley was a volunteer and managed the shop and its day-to-day running.

After an internal investigation by St Vincent de Paul, the gardai were contacted and formal complaints were made.

Banter

Detective Sgt Brian Mohan said that, when he was arrested, Dooley said he would only hug people. He said it was "banter".

Giving evidence, Dooley said: "I had no intention to harass or annoy anybody."

He said hugging was commonplace but agreed "he wouldn't do it now".

Mr Oakes said it was an unusual workplace with unusual practices that probably should have been dealt with by management.

Dooley faces numerous civil claims and Mr Oakes argued it would be unfair to convict him.

However, Judge Brennan convicted him of all counts and said that, while the accused may not have intended to cause offence, there was no question but that "a reasonable person would find it inappropriate".

He adjourned sentencing for two weeks and Dooley was remanded on bail.

Irish Independent

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