Thursday 20 June 2019

Actor (45) avoids jail after she targeted children's TV star in 'relentless' campaign of harassment

Frances Winston. Photo: Paddy Cummins/IrishPhotoDesk.ie
Frances Winston. Photo: Paddy Cummins/IrishPhotoDesk.ie

Tom Tuite

An actor who threatened to send drug dealers to the home of a BBC children's television presenter has been given an eight-month suspended sentence for a "relentless" online harassment campaign.

Frances Winston (45) pleaded guilty to harassing CBeebies star Ferne Corrigan on social media. Judge Michael Walsh was furnished with statements detailing the online abuse of the television presenter who came face to face with her harasser during a sentence hearing at Dublin District Court yesterday.

Ms Corrigan, supported in court by relatives, was in tears at the end of the case. Commenting afterwards, she said she was happy with the outcome and hoped it set a precedent. People needed to know this type behaviour, despite it not being face to face, was not allowed, she said.

Science broadcaster Ms Corrigan graduated from UCD with a degree in zoology and a masters in wildlife documentary production before her successful television career.

Earlier the judge had said he wanted to consider a victim impact report and Garda statements detailing the online abuse. He also had psychological reports on Winston furnished by defence solicitor Colleen Gildernew.

Ms Gildernew asked the court yesterday to note Winston's guilty plea and her client claims she had previously been in an abusive relationship with Ms Corrigan's father.

Ferne Corrigan. Photo: Paddy Cummins/IrishPhotoDesk.ie
Ferne Corrigan. Photo: Paddy Cummins/IrishPhotoDesk.ie

Judge Walsh said the harassment merited a custodial sentence but he suspended the term in light of Winston's issues and guilty plea.

Judge Walsh said the harassment continued from February 19, 2016 until May 20, 2017. He had carefully considered the facts of the case which were mainly gleaned from the statement of the complainant and the sworn evidence of Detective Sergeant Jonathan Kelly.

The accused began contacting Ms Corrigan in 2015 with serious allegations that "she colluded in domestic violence and drug dealing", Judge Walsh said. This continued on all forms of social media, on online forums as well as by email and WhatsApp messages.

They were calculated to cause upset and distress in Ferne Corrigan's private life and in her workplace. "The fact she targeted her workplace is a significant factor in evaluating the serious nature of the offence," he commented.

He said he noted Winston had emailed her employer, as well as the BBC press office and CBeebies on social media.

Ms Winston played murder plotter Sharon 'Lying Eyes' Collins in a 2017 TV3 reconstruction of that case.

Irish Independent

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