Wednesday 25 April 2018

'I will watch you bleed' - internet troll spared jail despite vile death threats against senator

Vile message said 'I will put bullets up your f***ing a*** and watch you bleed'

Stephen French (28) was spared jail after he pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Lorraine Higgins (inset) in a series of online messages.
Stephen French (28) was spared jail after he pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Lorraine Higgins (inset) in a series of online messages.
Lorraine Higgins

Andrew Phelan and Robin Schiller

An internet troll who told a Labour senator that he would fill her "rat's mouth with lead" has claimed his crimes weren't that serious.

Stephen French (28) was spared jail after he pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Lorraine Higgins in a series of online messages.

In one chilling email, he told his victim: "I'm also going to put bullets up your f***ing a*** and watch you bleed like a river."

Just hours after walking free from court yesterday, French further insulted Ms Higgins, telling the Irish Independent: "She'd do anything to keep herself in the paper."

Internet trollStephen French at his home on John McCormack Avenue, Walkinstown, Dublin.
Photo: Gerry Mooney
Internet trollStephen French at his home on John McCormack Avenue, Walkinstown, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

When asked whether he considered his crimes serious, French replied: "No, not really. It would have been if I went to jail. I suppose it would have been serious then.

"Was she called for a comment? She'd do anything to keep herself in the paper," he added.

In another email, seen by the Irish Independent, French refers to a Blaser R93 rifle and states: "I'm going to blow your big f***ing Jew nose right off," adding "nothing better than to fill a rat's mouth with lead".

A court was told that Ms Higgins was left "scared stiff" and in a position where she "rarely left the confines of Leinster House" while in Dublin.

Judge Anthony Halpin gave French a suspended six-month sentence, saying the courts had to send out the message that public representatives had the support of society and to warn people not to send them abusive comments.

French, from John McCormack Avenue, Walkinstown, Dublin, pleaded guilty to three counts of threatening to kill or cause serious harm to Ms Higgins, and two of harassing her.

The offences happened between July 16 and August 21, 2015.

The accused had entered his plea previously and the case came before Judge Halpin for sentence at Dublin District Court yesterday.

"I passed you in the street, I'm so close it's unreal," another message states.

"I was training with my Blaser r93 in the borderlands at the weekend, making sure my aim is at its peak.

"When the time is right I'm not only going to fill your rat's mouth with lead, your rat's mouth is going to be so full of lead it's going to fly out the back of your neck…

"I'm also going to put bullets up your f***ing a*** and watch you bleed like a river."

Following the sentencing, Ms Higgins told the Irish Independent: "I am a firm believer in the right to freedom of expression but there is a line that should never be crossed.

"I note the outcome of the case and while I am no longer involved in politics I do wish to move on from the experience and put it behind me."

Ms Higgins said today that she hopes what she went through won't put other women off entering politics.

She tweeted: "I sincerely hope my experience will not deter women from entering politics. We need female participation now more than ever."

Garda John Costello said a computer was seized by detectives in their investigation.

The court was told the accused was living with his mother, who was a widow.

"Here we have a public representative putting herself forward to represent people and then she is subjected to this kind of abuse and invective," Judge Halpin said.

Confines

"It is very stressful. It must have been a very stressful time for her - she says 'I rarely left the confines of Leinster House when in Dublin'."

In her victim impact statement, Ms Higgins said that following the threats she temporarily removed her social media accounts, deliberated about what she was saying publicly and in debates, and permanently disabled email and social media notifications to her mobile phone. She also "seriously considered not contesting the 2016 General Election".

"At that point, I realised I was paying a rather large price to be a public representative," she said.

French accepted his actions were "disgraceful" and "inexcusable" and he was "not trying to gainsay that", his solicitor Philip Hannon said.

He said, however, that a psychiatric report gave a background of "very deep, underlying and disquieting issues in relation to his mental health" which contributed to "the matters which were regrettably conveyed to Ms Higgins".

"At one stage she was scared stiff," Judge Halpin said.

"Any person would be," Mr Hannon said. "It is not only shocking, it is deeply, deeply disquieting reading it."

Judge Halpin said the offence required a sentence but noted the accused had no previous convictions and suspended it for two years.

Irish Independent

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