Suspended sentence for man who issued vile death threat to Sunday World journalist

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Simon Murphy is serving time imposed last year for a robbery of a post office
Simon Murphy is serving time imposed last year for a robbery of a post office

A 26-YEAR-OLD Wexford man has been given a six-month suspended sentence for sending a vile death threat to a senior journalist with the Sunday World newspaper.

Simon Murphy, with an address at Haggard, Ramsgrange, Co. Wexford, appeared before Judge Anthony Halpin at Dublin District Court today. 

The man, who is already serving a sentence for using an imitation gun as a weapon during an armed robbery at a post office, faced a single count under Section Five of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

The convicted robber did not address the court but his lawyer indicated that a guilty plea was being entered to the charge which stated that on June 22 last year at Independent House, Talbot Street, in Dublin city-centre, he made a threat to kill or cause serious injury to Niall Donald, who is a news editor with the Sunday World.

Detective Garda Sheila Sheehan told Judge Anthony Halpin that Murphy sent a message to the journalist via social media.

The threat stated: “Mr Donald. I'm going to personally make it my business to find you this week, I am going to rip your head clean off your shoulders and send it to your family, so I advise you to say your goodbyes before this week is out. And trust me when I say I am going to find you and I am going to kill you. I know where you live and I also know where your family live, so one way or another I'm going to find you this week. See you soon.”

Det Gda Sheehan said the threat was sent following the publication of a story headlined “Axis of Evil” in the Sunday World which mentioned the defendant's father who is a convicted sex offender.

The court heard that in the heat of the moment, Murphy, sent the email to Mr Donald. Mr Donald did not write the article for the newspaper but was attributed as the author on their online edition.

Judge Halpin said press freedom was important and to send a threat to a journalist was a serious matter. However, he noted that Det Gda Sheehan agreed with the defence that she did not think Murphy would have followed through on his threat.

The offence can result in a fine as well as a sentence of up to 12 months if the case is dealt with at district court level. However, if sent forward to the circuit court, a conviction can result in possible five-year term.

Judge Anthony Halpin was told that the DPP directed that the case should only be dealt with at district court level if Murphy entered a guilty plea, otherwise it would have gone forward to the higher court.

He imposed a six-month sentence but suspended it on condition that Murphy keeps the peace and does not re-offend in the next two years.

Murphy, a qualified electrician, is serving a jail term imposed last year for robbery of a rural post office in 2011 during which he was armed with a toy gun. He was sentenced to five years with 18 months suspended for that offence.