Friday 24 May 2019

Dublin actress pleads guilty to online harassment of BBC children's TV presenter

Frances Winston
Frances Winston

Tom Tuite

A Dublin actress has pleaded guilty to online harassment campaign of a BBC children’s television presenter.

Frances Winston, 45, is awaiting sentence after she was charged with harassing CBeebies star Ferne Corrigan on social media.

Winston, who is also a writer and a comedian, faced her fourth hearing Monday before Judge Michael Walsh at Dublin District Court.

Defence solicitor Colleen Gildernew told the court her client was pleading guilty, and the case would take some time to hear the facts.

Ferne Corrigan, host of My Pet And Me and Ferne and Rory’s Vet Tales, was not present for the hearing.

Detective Sergeant Jonathan Kelly asked for an adjournment.

The complainant resided in the UK, he said, adding that he may have to take a victim statement from her “over the phone”. The defence indicated that there was no objection to this and Judge Walsh adjourned the case for finalisation in two weeks.

Winston was remanded on continuing bail.

In December, she was given a warning, sought by gardai, to remind her she had to obey a condition banning her from contacting Ms Corrigan on social media.

Disclosure of evidence, including typed statements, was ordered at an earlier stage.

Ms Winston, who has an address at Rathgar Road, Dublin 6, faces a single count under Section 10.1 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

She was accused that on an on-going basis between February 19, 2016 and May 20, 2017, at various unknown locations she harassed Ferne Corrigan.

At her first hearing in September 2018, Detective Sergeant Jonathan Kelly told the court Ms Winston, was charged at Irishtown Garda station after which “she made no reply.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions had directed the case should be dealt with at district court level and not in the circuit court, which has tougher sentencing powers.

After hearing an outline of the case against the accused, Judge Walsh had accepted jurisdiction.

Detective Sergeant Kelly told the court it was alleged, “The defendant engaged in an online campaign of harassment against a named individual who is not resident in the State, and used various social media platforms to harass this individual in a very public way.”

Judge Walsh had asked if they were connected and the Garda said they were not directly linked but he added, “The injured party is the daughter of the defendant’s former partner.”

The defence solicitor had successfully resisted the garda’s application for an absolute ban on her client using social media “of any type”.

The judge had agreed to her request that the order in relation to using social media would be limited to the injured party.

He has also warned that if Ms Winston were foolish enough to make contact it could lead to further charges.

Ms Winston cannot have any contact with the injured party, or members of her family and her friends, by any means.

He warned her she could not contact Ferne Corrigan and this included social media, emails, “any manner whatsoever”.

She was also told to reside at her current address and she had to give gardai her phone number.

The judge has ordered gardai to hand over copies of all the communications which included “various emails” to the defence.

Legal aid was granted to Ms Winston at her first hearing after the judge noted from the defence solicitor that she was “employed but not above the threshold”.

Ms Winston was cast to play murder plotter Sharon “Lying Eyes” Collins in a 2017 TV3 reconstruction of that case.

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