A teenager who became “infatuated and obsessed” with his teacher sent her sexually explicit material anonymously over the course of a year, a court has heard.
The then 15-year-old boy “inflicted a year of misery” on the woman, who had no idea who was harassing her with the “sinister” images and videos and who became extremely anxious as a result, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
The Dublin teenager, now 19, avoided a jail term for his “outrageous behaviour”, with Judge Martin Nolan noting that he was a child at the time of the offending and was suffering from mental health difficulties including psychosis.
He sentenced him to two years' imprisonment, suspended on a number of conditions, including that he have no contact with the woman for the rest of his life.
The young man pleaded guilty to one count of harassment on dates between August 2018 and October 2019. He has no previous convictions and has not come to the attention of gardaí since.
Neither the teenager nor the teacher can be named after the judge imposed reporting restrictions.
Detective Garda Ronan O'Reilly told Aideen Collard BL, prosecuting, said that the teacher taught the boy when he was in first year of secondary school and over the following years he started to become sexually attracted to her.
When he was 15, he started anonymously sending her sexually explicit images on social media, including photos of herself with semen on them. He also sent her a video of someone ejaculating on images of her.
He sent her threatening messages of a sexual nature, telling her he would stop sending her images if she would respond to him, the court heard.
The court heard the boy became obsessed with sourcing images of the woman. He made a collage of her social media profile photos. When he ran out of photos, he masqueraded as the woman on a fake social media accounts, contacting her male friends and requesting images of herself.
One such message said: “I've lost all our photos, will you send them on to me?”
The woman initially tried to deal with the harassment herself before eventually contacting gardaí. They investigated and tracked the social media accounts to the boy's home address.
The teacher was “shocked” and “taken aback” to learn that one of her students had been behind the campaign of harassment, Det Gda O'Reilly said.
The court heard the woman was afraid to go out over the course of the year, as she didn't know who was sending her the messages. “He caused me a lot of stress and hardship,” she told gardaí, adding that the harassment was “calculated and persistent”.
The woman was not in court for the sentence hearing. A victim impact statement was handed into court but not read aloud. The court heard that she was relieved that the perpetrator had been found, that she is still teaching and “doing well”.
When interviewed by gardaí, the boy admitted sending the messages. He denied ejaculating on the photo, claiming he got someone else to do that. The boy's parents were “shocked and appalled” when his offending came to light, the court heard.
Marc Thompson BL, defending, said the boy was suffering from mental health issues and had been an in-patient at a psychiatric unit for a period of time. He was a recluse and “fragile” at the time.
“He became infatuated and obsessed” with the teacher, counsel said.
The boy left school at his own request in the wake of the harassment and is now engaged in a training course.
In a letter addressed to his teacher and handed into court, the teenager wrote: “Dear Miss, I'm writing this to sincerely apologise.” He went on to say he knew what he had done was “completely wrong”. “I'm ashamed and embarrassed at what I've done.” He said he was seeing a therapist to make sure “nothing like this happens again.”
Judge Nolan said the student had “inflicted a year of misery on this unfortunate woman”.
“This behaviour caused huge worry for the injured party,” the judge said. “She didn't know who was doing this and who was harassing her.”
Judge Nolan said the main reason the young man was not going to jail was because of his age at the time of his offending, which he described as “outrageous behaviour”.
He took into account a number of other mitigating factors including his guilty plea, remorse, cooperation with gardaí and his lack of criminal history.
The judge warned the teenager not to contact the teacher ever again, either directly or indirectly, telling him he could end up in jail if he does so.