Monday 16 September 2019

'Vulgar, demeaning abuse' - mother and son made woman's life "absolute misery" over affair

Helen O'Driscoll and her son Shane arrive at Banrty District Court disrtict Court for sentencing on Wednesday afternoon. Picture: John Delea.
Helen O'Driscoll and her son Shane arrive at Banrty District Court disrtict Court for sentencing on Wednesday afternoon. Picture: John Delea.

Ralph Riegel

A MOTHER and son convicted of waging a wicked campaign of abuse against a woman living on a west Cork island in a dispute over an historic affair were given suspended six month prison sentences.

Judge James McNulty warned Helen O'Driscoll (61) and her son, Shane O'Driscoll (31), that the court would not tolerate anyone being subjected to what he termed "vulgar, demeaning and sustained abuse" to the point where she described her life as an "absolute misery."

Ms O'Driscoll of Clerke's Lane, Skibbereen, Co Cork and Shane O'Driscoll of Lissamona, Cape Clear, Co Cork had vehemently denied the charges before the court.

Yesterday, both apologised to the court - with Ms O'Driscoll weeping uncontrollably as she told Judge McNulty she had directed her upset at the wrong person.

Shane O'Driscoll apologised to the woman involved and said he now wanted to put the matter behind him, The court heard Ms O'Driscoll was devastated to learn her husband had betrayed her by having an affair with the other woman some years earlier.

The judge was told there was an historic relationship between the woman - who cannot be identified to protect her child - and Ms O'Driscoll's husband, Fachtna.

The matters before the court arose from his decision on January 1 2017 to inform his wife, Helen, that the woman had borne him a child after that historic relationship some years previously.

Judge McNulty was told the woman was then effectively subjected to a near two year campaign of harassment which, she complained, included her being called demeaning and hurtful names in public including "slut" and "tramp."

Ms O'Driscoll also denied assaulting the woman in a Cape Clear pub on October 31 2017.

The harassment charges related to dates between January 1 2017 and September 1 2018.

Shane O'Driscoll denied ever harassing the woman on the ferry which links Cape Clear to the west Cork mainland.

The assault charge arose from a disputed incident in a Cape Clear pub where the woman claimed she was rugby tackled into a counter by Ms O'Driscoll.

However, Ms O'Driscoll said the incident arose from her stumbling in high heels as she collected drinks for a round and falling into the complainant.

The court heard evidence from Fachtna O'Driscoll who insisted that his relationship with the woman which resulted in the birth of the child involved was merely a one-night-stand.

He acknowledged he had no relationship with the child for the past two years.

In contrast, the woman claimed her affair had taken place on different times before her child was delivered - and the relationship continued for a brief period after the child was born.

Judge McNulty convicted on the harassment and assault charges.

He acknowledged he had sympathy for Ms O'Driscoll arising from the situation she found herself in and her husband's clear betrayal.

Such were the feelings involved, the family had even demanded a DNA test despite Fachtna O'Driscoll having admitted to being the child's father.

The judge noted that Shane O'Driscoll had denied everything - including even being on the island at the time of some of the harassment complaints.

Judge McNulty said the the victim had endured a sustained and deliberate campaign of abuse which she had found very hurtful.

He said the result of the targeted abuse was that her life had become "an absolute misery."

The judge was also scathing in his comments about Fachtna O'Driscoll describing as "odious" his effective abandonment of his child by the woman.

“There is something particularly odious about a man who, when it becomes uncomfortable, abandons his child. In the witness box he acknowledged that abandonment without a hint of shame or any expression of regret,” he said.

Judge McNulty had remanded both the mother and son overnight in Bandon Garda Station from Skibbereen District Court pending sentencing at Bantry District Court.

He imposed six month suspended prison sentences on both the mother and son.

Both sentences were suspended on condition the mother and son be of future good behaviour.

Judge McNulty was told that Ms O'Driscoll was so devastated by what had happened she had since left Cape Clear island now lives in Skibbereen.

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