Friday 22 November 2019

Man who took more than 12,000 pictures of his neighbour told to leave estate or face prison

Wexford District Court.
Wexford District Court. Newsdesk Newsdesk

A MAN who took thousands of pictures of his next-door neighbour in a housing estate was told by a judge to leave his home or face a year in jail.

Mark Mooney (55) of 33 Corish Park, Co Wexford agreed to vacate the house immediately and put it up for sale within six weeks in the hope of avoiding prison time.

Sitting at the District Court in Belvedere Road, Judge Gerard Haughton said that Mooney snapped Brid Murphy at a rate of four shots a day on average over a period of nine years.

He had two cameras which he used to photograph her while she was sunbathing, enjoying her garden or going in and out of her home.

The surveillance finally came to light in August of 2015 and the discovery had a devastating effect on Ms Murphy.

In a harrowing victim impact report read into the court record by a garda, she detailed the panic attacks and the effects on her physical health.

Judge Haughton responded by telling Mooney – a graduate in commercial office design – that he would have to vacate his house.

The defendant, who attended court with his sister, pleaded guilty to harassment over the period from July of 2007 to August of 2015.

The case arose out of a dispute over the cutting of the hedge between the two houses which are semi-detached.

First into the witness box was Garda Paul Doyle who responded in 2015 to a complaint from Ms Murphy that she was being photographed by the man next door.

She reported that she had become aware she was being watched and that she confronted him about his activities.

She told how he had taken her to his bedroom and shown her some of the images on a computer.

These included pictures of her sunbathing at the rear of the house.

The complaint prompted gardaí to obtain a search warrant and call to 33 Corish Park.

The accused was present as they seized a Dell Inspiron computer and a Fuji memory card which were examined in due course by the computer crime investigation unit.

In July of 2017, officers returned to the house and conducted a second search, this time confiscating two cameras which were in the bedroom.

Mooney was arrested and told gardaí in an interview that he had taken the pictures as he enjoyed looking at them. He accepted that they were taken without the knowledge of the injured party.

Garda Janet Walsh of the computer crime investigation unit gave the court details of the scale of the harassment.

She immediately found at least 2,700 images on the Dell and then recovered a further 10,140 which had been deleted.

She reckoned that the total came to 12,899, and that 2,276 picture files had been copied on to the Fuji film card. They were all stills, with no videos found.

The court learned that most of the photos appeared to have been taken in summer time.

Many showed Ms Murphy sunbathing in a bikini or in the garden wearing shorts.

Two cameras were identified as having been used and they too were confiscated.

Judge Haughton was shown a selection of the pictures but they were not displayed in open court.

A five-page victim impact report was submitted and it was read out by Garda Doyle at the request of Mooney’s neighbour.

The report detailed how she was left feeling petrified and violated at the discovery that she had been followed in this way by her neighbour of more than 30 years.

She experienced her first panic attack when the intrusion first came to light.

Other effects on her wellbeing since included depression, insomnia and a bout of shingles.

She wrote of how she used to regard her garden as a place of safety but now she felt he would be watching her there.

She dug up all her flowers and lost interest in the garden, getting someone else to cut the grass.

The sight of the hedge was a reminder of how it was used as cover for the taking of photographs.

She told how she now hid in the house, describing the fear and panic as unbearable.

She felt that she was the victim of the vile behaviour of a predator and that the garden was now a no-go area.

It was stressful to be in the line of Mooney’s sight, prompting her to remark that her home was no longer a home, feeling more like a prison instead.

She had seen no sign of remorse or embarrassment on the part of her tormentor and felt that any apology made this late in the day would be meaningless.

Nevertheless, defence solicitor Ed King was instructed by his client to offer an apology as he spoke up in mitigation.

Moore had no previous convictions and he was now aware of the magnitude of the distress caused, the court was told.

A past pupil of the Presentation Primary and Wexford CBS, he worked in the past as a draughtsman before going to WIT in the 1990s as a mature student to take his BSc degree.

Mr King found it perplexing that someone of Mooney’s ability did not realise what he was doing and he urged the judge not to send him to prison.

The solicitor pointed out that the court had powers to order the defendant to have no contact with Brid Murphy.

"He can move," responded Judge Haughton.

Mr King said his client had no other property to live in but there was a change of heart after the judge rose for a few minutes to allow discussions take place.

It was made clear to Mooney that the case was as serious a matter as could come before the District Court.

The judge had powers to impose a one-year jail term, with the option of adding a fine of up to €5,000.

A sentence would inevitably be recorded but suspension, or part suspension, would be considered once he clears off and out of Corish Park.

The view of the court was that Ms Murphy should not be the one forced to move and that she could not continue to have the offender next door.

When the formal hearing of the case resumed, Mr King gave an assurance that Mooney would remove his possessions from his house within four days.

He had no intention of returning, said the defence solicitor, and Number 33 would be up for sale inside six weeks.

Judge Haughton adjourned until October 9, summing up the current state of play, saying he could guarantee to the injured party that Mooney will not be back in the house – or else he will spend the next 12 months in prison.

Wexford People

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