A man who sent sexually explicit videos to a Fine Gael TD during the 2020 General Election campaign has been given a suspended sentence and ordered to stay away from Leinster House.
Gerard Culhane (43) of Marian Place, Glin, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to harassing Jennifer Carroll MacNeill at unknown locations in the state on dates between January 13, 2020 and on March 26, 2020. He has no previous convictions. .
Sentencing Friday, Judge Patricia Ryan said the period in question was ‘very disturbing and frightening’ for TD, especially as it occurred during a general election campaign as she met people.
Judge Ryan handed down a one-year custodial sentence suspended for 12 months under strict conditions.
She ordered Culhane to have no contact with the TD in person, through social media or through any third party for a period of five years.
Judge Ryan also ordered Culhane to stay away from Ms Carroll MacNeill’s workplace at Leinster House, her constituency offices and her residence.
The court previously heard that Culhane sent 13 TD messages during the period in question, including three sexually explicit videos, which he later admitted to gardaí that he had downloaded from a pornographic website.
Judge Ryan said the aggravating factors in the case included the amount of texting and the effect of the harassment on TD during a “significant”, “busy and stressful” part of his life.
As a result, TD had security concerns, especially as it encountered members of the public during an election campaign.
It would have been a “distressing and frightening” experience for TD not to know the identity of the person who harassed her “when she encountered people on a daily basis”, Judge Ryan said.
Setting the main sentence at two years, Judge Ryan noted that Culhane at the time appeared to be very socially isolated and struggling with a medical condition at the time of the offence.
Judge Ryan noted that mitigating factors include the guilty plea, lack of previous convictions and Culhane’s cooperation with Gardai.
Taking into account the mitigating circumstances, Judge Ryan handed down a one-year prison sentence, which she suspended for 12 months under strict conditions.
Defense attorney Karl Monahan BL said the probation report indicated his client was at low risk of re-offending.
His client also told the probation officer that he wanted to apologize to the DT and was remorseful for his actions.
“Looking back, if he could change the decision he made, he would,” Mr Monahan said, adding that his client deeply regrets the effect of his actions on TD, his family and his own. family.
The defense attorney also submitted testimony from a member of a sports club on behalf of Culhane.
Mr Monahan also confirmed that Culhane had donated to Aoibhneas Womens Refuge in Coolock, Dublin, a charity named by Ms Carroll MacNeill.
victim impact statement
In her victim impact statement, Ms Carroll MacNeill had previously told the court that she was in the midst of a general election at the time and that Culhane’s harassment was “extremely difficult to deal with”.
“I don’t wish to be here,” the MP said, before adding that “with every fiber of my being” she didn’t wish to waste the time of the court, the gardaí or the director of public prosecutions. But because Culhane sent her “unsolicited footage…we all have to be here,” she said.
She said she would rather spend her time working more constructively in the Oireachtas, serving her constituents and spending time with her young son.
“But because a man thought it was OK to invade my life, my mind and my sense of security because of the twisted goal he shot out of it, I have to use my time to go after him.” she declared.
“I don’t choose to be sexualized in this way, to be in news articles with sexual content. But because a man decided to send me sexually explicit videos, they are there forever more than anything. the world can see. This is all without my consent,” Ms. Carroll MacNeill said.
She said she didn’t want to be “a victim”. “I’m a private person and I just don’t like it,” TD said, before adding that it was “anxious to downplay” the matter.
Ms Carroll MacNeill said at the time that she was concerned for her safety as she was in the middle of a general election in which the main focus is on getting out and meeting as many members of the general public as possible .
She said she was terribly scared when she received the messages and did not want to worry about her safety at that time. “We all needed to get down to business,” she said.
Ms Carroll MacNeill said she was on high alert and her team and close family were protecting her further.
“Nobody should have to get unwanted sexual content. It affected me a lot in the process of trying to become an elected official,” she continued.
“When you organize an election, the main objective is to physically meet people. I was scared for the first time.
She said there was “a real real risk” for her. “I felt it, and I couldn’t see it.”
She felt like she didn’t know where the threat was, or what its nature was. “Was the person away from me, crossing the road towards me. What were they going to do? Was I going to be attacked?
She said at the time that she had “a cold sense of dread” and spoke of a reluctance to smile, reach out and engage.
“But in my mind, whether rationally or not, that person, whoever it was, now had every chance of just walking up and seeing me up close and being near me. And that terrified me.
I just didn’t know where it would go and thought I couldn’t stand it,” TD continued.
She said Culhane’s impact sending her these messages had a wider effect on her family, husband, parents and sister and said ‘something of that nature’ may just ‘creep into your life. “walking with her husband and her dogs, having coffee with her mother or watching television with her son.