Judge strikes out charges over 'unwanted and degrading' texts
A FORMER RTE boss accused of sending degrading and harassing text messages to a work colleague walked free from court yesterday when a judge struck out the charges against him.
Fred Coll (67), of Middletown, Gweedore, Co Donegal, an ex-regional manager for Radio na Gaeltachta, had denied harassing Roisin Sweeney, Coteen, Gweedore, between September 21, 2006, and September 29, 2007, when she received 21 "unwanted, harassing and degrading" text messages.
Dismissing the case at a special hearing of the case at Glenties District Court yesterday, Judge David Anderson described the texts as "reprehensible" but said he could "not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt" that they had been sent by Mr Coll.
Ms Sweeney was working as a secretary to Mr Coll at Meitheal Forbaithe na Gaeltachta on a project, Bia Fas, that provided cookery classes in Gaeltacht areas, when she began to receive the anonymous text messages.
They purported to relay derogatory remarks others were making about her, including references to her as "a cheap slut with no morals and no self-respect" and as someone "with low IQ only interested in sex and more sex".
She showed the messages to Mr Coll and he advised her not to show them to anyone else.
She told the court that her life had been ruined.
"It has been very hard for me and my family. It was like being watched all the time," she said.
In April 2007, a garda investigation got under way.
When gardai searched Mr Coll's home on October 16, 2007, two SIM cards were discovered in his locked car at the front of the property.
One of the SIM cards matched a phone that had been purchased by him in Castlebar and from which nine messages were sent to Ms Sweeney.
The second card was registered in the name of a fictitious person and had been used for sending two messages.
A third SIM card, which was never recovered, was also registered to a fictitious name and had been used to send the remaining nine messages.
At yesterday's hearing, Sean Bonner, solicitor for Mr Coll, said that his client had purchased a mobile phone in Castlebar for Ms Sweeney, whose own phone was out of action, so that she would not use the work phone.
Ms Sweeney vehemently denied that the phone had been bought for her. She also denied that she had sent the messages to herself.