Monday 11 December 2017

Barrister who left 120 ‘creepy’ and sexual voicemails jailed

A FORMER barrister who left over 120 "creepy" and "sexually intimidating" voicemail messages on a younger colleague’s mobile phone has been sentenced to three years.

Paul McLoughlin (50) of North Circular Road, changed his plea to guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after two days of evidence during which the jury heard 62 recordings of those voicemail messages.

He had initially denied harassing barrister Lorcan Staines (30) between May 1, 2006 and May 14, 2010.

Judge Patricia Ryan imposed a three year term but suspended the final year after taking into account McLoughlin’s guilty plea and expressions of remorse. She ordered he undergo 18 months probation supervision on his release and stay away from Mr Staines for 15 years.

She noted Mr Staines felt “goaded and taunted” into making a complainant to gardai and that McLoughlin continued to harass him even after being warned by gardai and later arrested.

Mr Staines was not in court when sentence was handed down.

McLoughlin has no previous convictions and although he was a barrister at the time, he is no longer practicing.

During the trial last May the jury heard the voicemail messages which Mr Staines had recorded, some of which repeatedly stated “I want you to be my boyfriend”.

Another message said: “You are not available to take my calls, but you are available to play with my emotions.” The phrase “fatal attraction” appeared many times in the messages.

Having listened to the messages in court for over two hours, Mr Staines became visibly upset, saying he felt he had been “goaded” into taking the case to court.

He repeatedly said he found the behaviour “creepy” and also “sexually intimidating”.

Sergeant Brendan Brogan told Paul Carroll BL, prosecuting, that in other voice mail messages McLoughlin told Mr Staines he should look left and right the next time he was in the toilet, while others mentioned his date of birth.

In another message he said he was in Galway walking where Mr Staines once had walked when he attended college there.

Sgt Brogan said in some of the final voicemails, McLoughlin referred to Sgt Brogan as Mr Staines’ “henchman” and “private army”, while others stated “I am outside a restaurant on Dame Street awaiting my arrest” and “I am awaiting Sgt Brogan”.

These voicemails were received after McLoughlin had been questioned on three separate occasions and arrested twice.

The court heard that McLoughlin was warned by gardai in September 2009 not to contact Mr Staines again after the barrister contacted the gardai following three years of harassment. Mr Staines did not make a formal complaint.

He did however make a formal complaint two months later after McLoughlin continued to harass him and McLoughlin was arrested but not charged.

He was arrested a second time six months later, in May 2011, and charged after he again resumed calling Mr Staines late at night and leaving aggressive voicemail messages.

At this point McLoughlin was released on bail but that bail was revoked in November 2011 when he continued to harass the victim.

He went into custody voluntarily but was later released on bail to attend residential treatment for his alcohol addiction. He remained on bail until the trial and did not contact Mr Staines again.

McLoughlin, who was placed in an orphanage at six months old, took the stand to apologise to Mr Staines for the “unjustified and unnecessary stress and hurt I have caused him and his family”.

“As I sat in court listening to him my heart froze. It penetrated into the core of my being. Having listened to the messages I realised the serious grievous wrong I had done,” McLoughlin said.

He explained that he then decided to instruct his barristers that he wished to change his plea to guilty.

McLoughlin told Blaise O’Carroll SC, defending, that he was very ashamed and embarrassed about the evidence given by Sgt Brogan.

He said he had been attending psychiatric services to deal with the feelings he had buried deep down in relation to various issues of his childhood.

McLoughlin said in his mid-30s he began to acknowledge the child abuse he suffered and “took to alcohol to deal with the hurt and the pain”.

He said he has suffered from depression and has been hospitalised twice. He is now taking anti-depressants, mood stabilisers and sleeping tablets.

McLoughlin said he is willing to engage with any alcohol treatment recommended and the Probation Service. He said he hopes to “rejuvenate my legal career in some form in the future”.

He agreed with Mr Carroll in cross-examination that both he and his legal team had the recordings of the voicemail messages before the trial and that Sgt Brogan had played them for him when he first interviewed him in 2010.

“Yes but one of the side effects of my medication is a lack of focus and concentration,” McLoughlin told Mr Carroll.

Mr O’Carroll told Judge Patricia Ryan that his client was “an extremely vulnerable person” who has a distorted reality of life and a problem with paranoia.

“He is a gentle sort of soul in normal life who has a problem with relationships,” counsel submitted.

Sgt Brogan said that Mr Staines contacted him in September 2009 to report his concern about the missed calls, voicemail messages and text messages from McLoughlin.

He did not wish to make a formal complaint at the time. At that stage Mr Staines had already notified the Bar Council about the persistent unwanted contact from his colleague, but McLoughlin ignored the council’s request to leave the younger man alone.

Sgt Brogan said he invited McLoughlin to the Bridewell Garda Station to discuss the situation that September.

“I explicitly and clearly explained to him that if contact continued he would be in breach of legislation,” Sgt Brogan said before he explained that he and McLoughlin shook hands and he agreed to not contact Mr Staines again.

Two weeks later he started calling the barrister again and Mr Staines made a formal complaint in November 2009, providing the sergeant with recordings of voicemails, 25 text messages and three emails from McLoughlin.

McLoughlin was arrested later that month and during three interviews admitted he had first met Mr Staines in the Four Courts in Dublin where they were both practising. When the voicemails, text messages and emails were put to him he replied that he had no recollection of them.

He claimed that Mr Staines had “fabricated” an incident he had reported to the gardai, in which he said McLoughlin sat behind him, in an intimidating manner, during his first court case before the District Court in February 2007.

The barrister had told the jury during the trial that this incident had left him feeling like he had been stalked and described it as “creepy and upsetting”.

Sgt Brogan said McLoughlin was released without charge but re-arrested six months later when he resumed contact again.

He was questioned again and told gardai that he did not feel it was “the function of An Garda Siochana to interfere in a professional dispute between two professional people at the bar”.

McLoughlin was charged and granted bail but that bail was revoked six months later when he again started leaving voicemails on Mr Staines’ phone.

He voluntarily went into custody but was later released to allow him to attend for residential treatment for his alcohol addiction. He remained on bail until his trial and did not contact Mr Staines again.

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