THE dread terror of a woman door-stepped by a man who was harassing her was outlined by Judge James McNulty at Bantry District Court.
On one occasion, the judge said the accused, John O’Brien (61) of Rossbrin, Ballydehob, knocked on the door of the woman incessantly, failed to leave when asked to do so, and then tried to force the door.
‘As he stared at me with the look of a predator,’ the judge read from the victim’s impact statement, ‘all I could think of in that moment was the rearing of my children if this man killed me.’
When the court heard the facts initially, the judge said there was a suggestion that this was some kind of misguided affection by the accused.
‘But this was more than just a nuisance,’ he said, ‘it turned into harassment that disturbed the peace and joy she previously experienced on visits to her holiday home in West Cork.’
After the initial hearing, the judge requested a probation report and a victim impact statement. At the adjourned Bantry court sitting, Judge McNulty noted that the accused had minimised what occurred and the harm he had done. ‘It is an error to describe it as misbehaviour. This is harassment,’ he said.
‘What started out as a friendship between families had,’ according to the solicitor defending, Flor Murphy, ‘turned into a nightmare for the victim.’ Mr Murphy said his client is ‘extremely remorseful’ and accepted that his behaviour was ‘appalling.’ He also outlined how John O’Brien is not only dealing with depression but also his ‘misuse of alcohol.’
On the occasion referred to by the judge, the solicitor said John O’Brien had been ‘drinking with friends.’
Judge McNulty convicted the accused of harassing the woman between February and August 2020, but said it was ‘too serious’ to deal with by way of a fine.
The judge indicated he was considering a custodial sentence. He adjourned the case to Tuesday’s court sitting in Skibbereen and instructed the gardaí to take the accused into custody.
At the adjourned sitting, Flor Murphy said his client was in a ‘deep state of shock’ after spending five days in prison. ‘He didn’t like it and doesn’t want to go back and he will do anything to avoid going to prison,’ said Mr Murphy.
‘His wife is not condoning his actions and she abhors what he did,’ he added, ‘but she is supporting him.’
Mr Murphy said the incident occurred almost two years ago and there has been no repeat of the harassment of the woman.
‘He has huge issues with alcohol,’ said the solicitor who pointed out that his client is a plasterer and stonemason and was willing to carry out community service and ‘do something useful for society in Ballydehob and Schull.’
The judge noted remarks in the probation report – which recorded John O’Brien’s ‘lack of empathy’ and an ‘element of denial’ – as well as avoiding or addressing his issues with alcohol. Judge McNulty said the penalty must reflect the gravity of the offence and sentenced him to six months in prison, but he directed the accused to carry out 200 hours of community service in lieu of that sentence.
‘If he fails to do the community service he has six months in prison waiting for him,’ said the judge. The court also directed that he is not to harass the woman at her holiday home in West Cork or anywhere else.
The accused agreed to abide by the directions given by the court.