harassment charges | 

Judge bans naming man (55) accused of threatening to share ‘intimate’ pictures of woman

A court heard the woman is agreeing to the defendant being identified but Judge Bryan Smyth imposed a ban on reporting his name.

Stock image© PA

Andrew PhelanIndependent.ie

A court has granted anonymity to a man (55) accused of harassment and coercive control of a woman and threatening to share "intimate" pictures, despite the alleged victim consenting to him being named in the media.

A court heard the woman is agreeing to the defendant being identified but Judge Bryan Smyth imposed a ban on reporting his name. The judge made the order after the DPP consented to a request by the accused to remain anonymous.

The case was adjourned at Dublin District Court for the preparation of a book of evidence.

The man is accused of harassing the woman at various locations in the State over 16 days in February 2021, under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

He faces a connected domestic violence charge of persistent controlling or coercive behaviour against the woman, with whom he previously had an intimate relationship.

The final charge is under the recently-introduced Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 and is for threatening to distribute or publish intimate images without consent with intent to cause harm.

This law covers cases of online harassment and bullying as well as so-called “revenge porn”. It does not specifically provide for the anonymity of an accused, but prohibits reporting of information that could lead to the identity of the alleged victim.

Defence barrister Keith Spencer BL today asked the judge for anonymity for the accused.

Garda Sergeant Michelle Lynch said the woman had told the prosecuting garda she consented to the accused being named.

Mr Spencer said this was hearsay and he believed the alleged victim would have to be present in court.

State solicitor Anna Bridgeman said the DPP was consenting to the defence application for anonymity for the accused.

Judge Smyth said the statutory reporting restriction did not specifically refer to the identification of the defendant.

Mr Spencer agreed that what was at issue was the anonymity of the alleged victim. He did not think she had been canvassed about whether naming the accused could lead to her being identified as well.

Judge Smyth said the purpose of the anonymity provision was to protect the alleged victim, “not your client”.

Mr Spencer said he accepted this but he did not think the victim had been canvassed about the “parameters or consequences” for her.

Sgt Lynch said the prosecuting garda had stated he had discussed the provisions of the Act with the woman. However, the Sgt said she did not have full details of what was discussed.

“She has just given consent to the accused being named but I’m not sure if she is fully aware of what that means for her,” Sgt Lynch told Judge Smyth.

Mr Spencer said if publication of the accused’s name enabled people to ascertain the woman’s identity it would “fall foul” of the Act.

If his client was to benefit from anonymity it could be displaced only on the strict terms of the Act, he said.

Judge Smyth said the provisions of the Act were not for the accused’s benefit. However, he said he was happy to make the anonymity order.

The court heard a book of evidence was not ready and the judge adjourned the case to next month.

The accused, who denies all charges, was remanded on continuing bail.

The 2020 Act was introduced to deal with the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and online harassment. It is known as Coco’s Law after 21-year-old Nicole ‘Coco’ Fox took her own life following years of online bullying.

On conviction, the offence carries a potential maximum seven-year sentence, as does the other harassment charge, while coercive control can result in five years imprisonment.

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