Detective found guilty of harassing solicitor by sending her abusive letters jailed for three years
A detective found guilty of harassing a State solicitor by sending her abusive letters has been jailed for three years.
Judge Melanie Greally said that while Eve Doherty (50) is considered at low risk of re-offending she maintains her innocence and has shown no remorse for the crimes.
Doherty, with an address in Blackglen Road, Sandyford, Dublin, was found guilty by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of harassing Elizabeth Howlin between September 2011 and March 2013 following a two-week trial last July.
She was found not guilty of two counts of making false statements on two dates in March 2012, in which she claimed Ms Howlin was perverting the course of justice.
At the time in question, Ms Howlin worked with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) where she was involved in deciding whether or not to direct prosecutions in criminal cases. Doherty held the position of detective sergeant and worked in the crime and security division of An Garda Siochana.
The trial heard that over an 18-month period, letters and emails were sent to Ms Howlin's home, her place of work and to her GP calling her a “corrupt b***h”, an “incompetent useless hobbit” and a “two-faced b***h”.
The court heard Ms Howlin didn't know Doherty until the trial and that Doherty was then in a relationship with the victim's ex-partner. A victim impact statement was handed into court from Ms Howlin, but was not read out.
Judge Greally said the communications by Doherty contained outright and scurrilous lies. They contained statements which were variously disparaging, insulting and offensive, both from a personal and professional manner.
She noted that at the time, Doherty had come into conflict with garda management and was under considerable stress. She said that the death of Doherty's mother had a profound effect on her and she had never entirely come to terms with that loss.
A medical report stated that she continues to suffer from suicidal ideation and noted a decline in her cognitive functioning. She suffers from paranoia and believes that the evidence in the trial was fabricated by gardai to frame her.
Kerida Naidoo SC, prosecuting, said Doherty sent emails from a Dublin city centre internet cafe to hundreds of recipients using anonymous email accounts. The court heard she holds a degree in Cybercrime and diplomas in Psychology and Legal Studies.
Following a garda investigation that involved contacting the Canadian email server company, Hushnet, gardaí tracked down the internet cafe from which the emails were being sent. Doherty was arrested after she sent an anonymous email from the cafe while wearing sunglasses and a wig.
As well as letters and emails, Doherty dispensed leaflets around Ms Howlin's housing estate, falsely claiming that Ms Howlin was a political appointee and that she would “pull” files to prevent the prosecution of anyone connected to her or the government. Ms Howlin is a distant cousin of the TD and labour party leader, Brendan Howlin.
Doherty was suspended from An Garda Siochana but is currently still a serving member of the force, the court previously heard. After her arrest, she spent a month in St John of God psychiatric hospital. She has no previous convictions.
Defence counsel, Michael O'Higgins SC, said Doherty had a “singular ambition” to become a garda and she rose through the ranks to the level of detective sergeant. “It was a job and a career which, for the most part, she found enriching and rewarding,” Mr O'Higgins said.
He said Doherty had a difficult work environment and had some “fractious” relationships within the job, due in part to her “complete lack of diplomacy” with regard to her thoughts on how things were run.
A 13-page psychological report was handed into court, which found Doherty suffered from severe work-related stress, depression, anxiety, paranoia and suicidal ideation. She suffers from nightmares, insomnia, headaches and chest pain and is on anti-depressant medication, the court heard.
“This is not something that can be explained simply by malice or badness,” Mr O'Higgins said, adding it was a “complicated” case involving psychological issues.
He said the offence was committed by a person who was suffering from depression, paranoia and significant levels of stress. “That goes some way in my submission to analysing the content and understanding it better,” he said.
Mr O'Higgins said the content of the material was “nasty” but he urged Judge Greally to also consider Doherty's prior “exemplary” character.
A number of character references were handed up in court, including one from a retired detective sergeant who worked with Doherty. The court heard she loves dogs and has been involved in dog rescues in the past.
“She has a good and productive life and she has done good and productive things,” Mr O'Higgins said. “She has spread great kindness in her life to other people.”
Judge Greally rejected a defence submission to impose a suspended sentence, noting the lack of a guilty plea and the lack of any evident remorse.