Sunday 25 September 2016

Woman (57) who threatened to bomb Michael D Higgins if he visited England has sentence adjourned

Published 11/07/2016 | 17:36

Anne Fennell Pic: Courts Collins.
Anne Fennell Pic: Courts Collins.

A woman who sent obscene phone messages to Aras an Uachtarain threatening to bomb President Michael D Higgins if he visited England, will be sentenced later for this and for harassing her local priest.

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On one occasion Anne Fennell (57) referred to President Higgins as a “ladyboy” and on another told the receptionist that “the President and Sabrina Higgins would go home in plastic bags if they set foot on English soil”.

She made repeated threats to bomb the president over a number of phone calls in April 2014 and again in October the same year.

On Monday Judge Melanie Greally heard additional evidence of a campaign of harassment against the accused's parish priest

Anne Fennell Pic: Courts Collins.
Anne Fennell Pic: Courts Collins.

Fennell of Monastery Gate Green, Clondalkin ,Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making persistent annoying phone calls and sending obscene or menacing phone messages to Aras an Uachtarain, the Department of Finance, the European Commission Representation, An Post Dublin Mail Centre and the constituency offices of TDs Alan Kelly, Aodhan O Riordain and Noel Coonan between February 2 and December 1, 2014.

She also pleaded guilty to harassing Fr Desmond Byrne at an address in Clondalkin on dates between September and October 2006. Fennell has no previous convictions.

Judge Greally heard during the sentencing hearing last December that the entire area around Dáil Éireann had to be searched on November 18, 2014 when Fennell called to say there would be a bomb at the main gate.

The parliamentary usher who took the call later told gardaí that Fennell, a former An Post worker, had hung up “screaming”.

On Monday Garda Aisling McGowan told Fiona Murphy BL, prosecuting that Fr Byrne came into contact with Fennell in 2000 as he regularly visited her invalid mother at the time.

The woman later died and in October 2005 Fr Byrne began to receive numerous nuisance calls from Fennell. She also ordered taxis and takeaways to his home.

The priest was later blacklisted by local cab firms as a result of the bogus bookings and had to get his neighbour to call a taxi for him on one occasion when he needed one in an emergency.

Gda McGowan said sometimes Fennell would call and remain silent on the phone, while on other occasions she would say a few words. The priest recognised her number and her voice.

CCTV footage captured Fennell hanging around the priest's home. She put brown sauce, crisps and chips through his letterbox and threw black paint over his garage door.

Fennell was arrested in November 2006 and accepted what she had been doing. She said she would pay for any damage and claimed to have had no recollection of doing it.

A victim impact report from Fr Byrne said the calls were a nuisance but he was not scared by them. He also had to install CCTV footage and change the phone system in his home. The priest said he was “happy to put it behind me”.

Kevin White BL, defending said there was no excuse whatsoever for Fennell's behaviour and she wasn't making any.

He told Judge Greally that his client struggled to cope with her mother's death and wrongly believed Fr Byrne was pushing her aside when he recommended that she join a local group.

The judge had noted last December, after photos were handed in of Fennell's home, that she lived in“ sub-human conditions” but was informed by Mr White today that she has made vast improvements to her living conditions since January.

He said she had set about cleaning up her house, had had it painted and had installed a washing machine. “She has started to look after herself,” Mr White said.

Judge Greally adjourned the case to next November and ordered an updated probation and psychological report for that date.

She addressed Fennell and said she had made significant changes for the better.

“I applaud her for the manner in which she approached her situation and this gives the court hope for optimism,” Judge Greally said before she added that Fennell should keep moving in the right direction.

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