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harrassment campaign Man jailed after directing men to woman’s home for sex by faking her social media

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Stephen Downey

Stephen Downey

Stephen Downey

A man who created a fake social media profile of a woman and directed men to come to her home for sex has been jailed for two years, after a court heard it was the second time he had waged a harassment campaign of this type against the victim.

Stephen Downey (30), from Lissadell, Maryborough Hill, Cork, pleaded guilty to harassing a woman on dates between March and April 2020.

Det-Garda Aonghus Cotter told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Downey set up a fictitious social media profile of a woman and directed men to go to her home for sex.

No details were given as to the nature and content of the profile.

About 20 men were directed to go the home of the victim.

However, just two individuals called to the house.

The men, who called to the home of the woman in spring 2020, asked to speak to an individual with a different name to the injured party.

Det Garda Cotter said the incident had caused the woman considerable trauma because two men had arrived at her home expecting sex.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin was told the man was arrested in June 2020.

He fully cooperated with gardaí and admitted his crime.

The court was told Downey has six previous convictions. He has three previous convictions for sexual assault in 2008 after he approached random women in Cork city and grabbed them on the buttocks and breasts. He received a suspended sentence on this occasion.

Det Gda Cotter said that in November 2015, Downey was jailed for six months after pleading guilty to three counts of harassment.

He harassed a woman by creating a fake social-media profile and apparently choosing an image of a pornographic model to include alongside the legitimate photos because the woman resembled the victim.

Downey had copied the images of the victim from her legitimate social media site and used them to create another fake site, in a practice known as “catfishing”.

These pictures were then shared with more than 1,000 men through social media.

Up to 30 men were directed to a particular house in Cork.

Another woman lived at this address with her partner. This couple found men calling to their house.

One man appeared to be high on drugs and another sat outside their house for three hours.

At Cork Circuit Criminal court yesterday, the victim in this case, who was also the target of Downey’s harassment in 2015, handed in a victim-impact statement to the court, which she did not want read out.

She was present in court for the hearing.

Det-Gda Cotter said the harassment had weighed heavily on her because this was the second time she had been subjected to an ordeal due to the defendant.

Barrister Sinéad Behan, defending, said the family of her client were “appalled” at his offences. She said they were “devastated” but stood by him.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said Downey had engaged in a disturbing harassment of the victim by setting up a false profile and directing men to her house.

He said the person of the victim and her house was “invaded in an appalling manner” in a repeat of the offences of 2015.

Taking the nature of the abuse and the directing of men to the home of the victim into account he jailed him for four years, suspending the last two years of the sentence.

Downey will fall under the care of the probation service when he is released from prison.

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