Monday 11 December 2017

Dad (40) who intimidated sex worker into withdrawing criminal allegations against him is jailed

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Declan Brennan and Sonya McLean

A married Kerry father who intimidated a sex worker into withdrawing criminal allegations against him has been sentenced to three years with the last 18 months suspended.

The 40-year-old man sent the woman texts messages and emails calling her a whore, and threatening to tell her family and neighbours that she was a prostitute if the charges were not dropped.

A character witness described the offender as a straight and decent man who he was prepared to stand by him.

After a six day trial last December a jury found the man guilty of two counts of threatening or putting in fear a witness in a garda investigation on dates between April 29 and May 28, 2010.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the charges.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy previously adjourned the sentence having heard evidence.

He said he couldn't ignore the seriousness of offences of this kind “which undermine the administration of justice” while also noting the direct impact the man's actions had on the victim.

He read from her victim impact report that she was left “alone, terrified and with no support”. She was in constant fear of what would happen next and didn't know who she could turn to.

Mr Justice McCarthy said because the man had made it clear he knew where the woman lived she moved her family to a different area of the country “to feel safe”.

He took into account the fact that the man had no previous convictions, a good employment record, that he has a number of small children and that he was otherwise of good character.

Mr Justice McCarthy sentenced the man to three years in prison. He suspended the last 18 months on strict conditions including that he make no contact or attempt to make contact with the victim in any way.

The trial heard that the woman was working as an escort or prostitute on the weekend and had come to Dublin to meet a number of men for sex. She advertised herself as a well-educated former model on the Escorts Ireland website.

The accused man contacted her on this website and an arrangement was made for them to meet in the hotel room.

The woman said that she had agreed to meet the man for a “girlfriend experience” service but she said he became rough and didn't pay her. After he left she contacted gardai and made criminal allegations against him.

His real identity was unknown to the woman or gardai as he used a pseudonym on the Escorts Ireland website and an unregistered mobile to arrange the meeting.

The court heard that as gardai made efforts to identify the accused, he began sending intimidating texts to the woman from two other unregistered mobile phone numbers.

The texts told the woman to withdraw “false allegations” or her neighbours in a small rural town-land would be informed she was working as an escort and would be “shocked and ashamed”.

Another text stated: “I assume your family know you are a prostitute. I’ve passed on your messages”.

An email sent from another fake email address to the woman on May 28, 2010 referred to “a whore” from that same village in a “Limerick” style rhyme referencing a “video of you fucking the dog”.

The email ended: “Never ride a guy who keeps his jacket on, they always record it on their mobile”.

The woman told the trial that she was terrified when she received that email. “I was not sleeping, not eating. I was terrified he would come after me. I didn’t know how far he was going to take it,” she testified.

A childhood friend of the accused told Thomas Creed SC, defending, that the accused man was a straight and decent person who he continued to have regard for. He said he was very shocked by this offending but he was prepared to stand by the man.

The married man has no previous convictions. Mr Creed described his client as a “much loved husband and father” whose wife depended on him as the only breadwinner in the house.

The court heard that the accused man was eventually identified after investigating garda Detective Ronan Conway tracked down 250 IP addresses linked to his Escorts Ireland pseudonym. This led gardai to a former employer who identified the accused from CCTV footage from the hotel.

The accused told gardai that the texts were not threatening and denied that he had threatened or intimidated the woman.

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