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‘Insidious and shocking’ – man who posted ex-girlfriend’s intimate photos and contact details to porn sites jailed in landmark image-based abuse case

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Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor outside Galway Court.(Photo: Hany Marzouk)

Joseph O'Connor outside Galway Court.(Photo: Hany Marzouk)

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Joseph O'Connor

A jilted boyfriend who posted intimate photos of his ex-girlfriend to pornographic sites along with links to her social media accounts, has been sentenced to nine months in prison.

Sentencing Joseph O'Connor (27) with an address at Lios an Uisce, Merlin Park, Galway, today, Judge Mary Fahy described the actions as “an insidious and shocking way of getting back at her” for ending their year-long relationship.

Judge Fahy said the victim would have been viewed as “a piece of meat” on the websites and people would make degrading comments about her.

Insurance salesman, O’Connor, pleaded guilty before Galway District Court last April to harassing the woman on a date unknown between August 1, 2015 and July 10, 2019, contrary to Section 10 (1) and (6) of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

It is the first prosecution of its type relating to image-based abuse – more commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’ - to come before the courts in Galway.

Reporting restrictions were imposed at O’Connor’s first court appearance last October, to protect the victim’s identity, but they were lifted today by Judge Mary Fahy.

Garda Paraic Moran, prosecuting, told the sentence hearing the victim wanted O’Connor publicly identified while asking to remain anonymous herself.

Garda Moran said the woman was very upset when she made a complaint to him after finding intimate photographs she had sent to O’Connor while they were together had been uploaded to the internet shortly after she ended their relationship.

She Googled her own name after she started to receive numerous, daily "friend” requests from complete strangers via her Snapchat and Facebook accounts.

One woman told her she had seen her photos on the Plenty of Fish website and was able to contact her via her Facebook link, which was also posted on the website.

The victim then discovered the photos she had sent O’Connor were on a number of pornographic websites, along with links to her Snapchat and Facebook contact details.

Garda Moran explained the woman could not be identified from the photographs but her Facebook profile and Snapchat links had been posted with them and they identified her.

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O’Connor readily admitted he uploaded the photos and links when interviewed.

“Someone he knew really well and after a year together they break up - as these things can do - so, to get his own back he did this. Is that fair to say?”, Judge Fahy asked.

Garda Moran said O’Connor admitted he did it for a combination of reasons.

He claimed that after the break-up there were rumours going around about him, and he said the woman had also sent an intimate picture of him to a mutual friend group chat.

The Garda said the pair were in a relationship at the time the woman sent the photo to their friends. She had sent it as a joke, he said, and she apologised to O’Connor and took the photo down when she realised he was upset by it.

Their relationship continued for a long time afterwards but when it finished O’Connor posted the photos of her on the internet.

Judge Fahy asked if the woman was contacted mostly by men after the photos were uploaded to the porn websites.

Garda Moran said the first inkling the woman got was when she was contacted by another woman who wanted to meet up with her, but he accepted a lot of men would have also viewed the photos and used the links to contact the woman.

He explained the images had been uploaded to a pornographic blog or forum, like a thread, along with the links to her social media accounts and users could then copy them and post them to other porn websites and click on the links to contact her.

“That is why he did it, to cause as much consternation as possible to her. That’s shocking,” Judge Fahy said.

Garda Moran said the woman had to contact numerous websites, to get the images removed. She had to say she was underage for some of the sites to take them down, while some sites refused to remove them, he said.

Defence solicitor, Brian Gilmartin said the break-up of the relationship along with periods of poor mental health, caused his client to rationalise what he did at the time.

Reading the woman’s victim impact statement, Judge Fahy observed a subsequent two-and-a-half-year relationship the woman had with another man ended when he found out about the online photos.

“The photos went up and then the photos were discovered and then that relationship ended because he could not deal with her being ogled by potentially thousands of people,” the judge said.

Garda Moran told her the woman had been able to move on with her life since and her career was progressing well.

The judge said it must have been awful for the young woman to be receiving messages from strangers.

Garda Moran agreed, stating she was being constantly contacted by people.

“It’s absolutely one of the worst nightmares for any young girl for that to happen to her; that someone would do that after being in a relationship,” Judge Fahy said.

Sergeant Cathal Rodgers added that while the photos may have been taken down, some people had already taken screen grabs of them and they could still be uploaded to websites.

“It could affect her for the rest of her life. It’s revenge porn,” the Sergeant added.

Mr Gilmartin said his client’s guilty plea would give some comfort to the woman and he asked the Garda if the woman had ‘moved on’.

Garda Moran said she had but he believed this incident would always would be there with her.

In mitigation, Mr Gilmartin said O’Connor had since gained insight into his behaviour and was deeply ashamed and sorry for the harm it caused.

He said his client suffered from periods of depression which culminated in what he did but he was now engaging with a therapist and deeply regretted his behaviour.

“There is no excuse for what he put this girl through but he now accepts his behaviour was reprehensible and he has to deal with the consequences going forward,” the solicitor said, handing several testimonials into court.

Judge Fahy said the testimonial were all good but this offence was so insidious, it had a serious effect on the victim.

The judge said she did not approve of the girl sending a picture of O’Connor to their friends, which she described as a “silly and unacceptable thing to do” but their relationship continued on afterwards.

“However, this charge is what is commonly called ‘revenge porn’ where somebody’s life is turned upside down and where he wanted to get his own back and used the websites where it appeared she was available - for whatever services offered, I do not know,” the judge observed.

Garda Moran said the comments posted by users under the pictures were quite degrading.

“He would have known that people would be very critical.

And a young girl would be looked at as just a piece of meat. A message has to go out that this is just not acceptable.

“If he wanted to prevent her from moving on, he succeeded in that too because her two-and-a-half-year relationship ended. I imagine she will be very wary from now on,” Judge Fahy said.

In reply to the judge, Mr Gilmartin said O’Connor worked in the motor insurance claims industry and had no previous convictions.

The judge said she had to impose a custodial nine-month sentence in light of the seriousness of the offence and to send out a message that such offending would be treated seriously.

Leave to appeal the sentence was granted.


 


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