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Mountjoy prisoner who called ex 3,800 times and left threatening messages gets three years

‘You have 10 minutes to answer your phone, or it's your sister's house”. Martin Cunningham also said: ‘I swear to god, I'm getting you’

Mountjoy Prison in Dublin

Claire Henry and Eimear DoddSunday World

A man who left threatening messages on his ex-partner's phone in 3,800 calls made from prison has been handed a three-year prison sentence.

Martin Cunningham (28) of Warrenstown Drive, Mulhuddart, Dublin, has 14 previous convictions, including for assault causing harm, production of an article, making threats to kill and road traffic offences.

He pleaded guilty to one count of harassment on dates between January 1, 2021, and March 30, 2021, and one count of making threats to kill or cause serious harm on dates between March 17, 2021, and March 30, 2021.

Imposing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today, Judge Orla Crowe said Cunningham had engaged in a “callous, calculating, cruel and sustained” course of harassment against his former partner. This took place at a time when the defendant was in custody and should not have had a phone.

She handed Cunningham a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence, backdated to August 10, 2021.

Judge Crowe suspended the final six months of the sentence for two years on strict conditions, including that Cunningham places himself under the supervision of the Probation Service for one-year post-release.

Garda Quin Hanley told Simon Matthews, BL, prosecuting, that the woman told him that in January 2021, she had set her phone to block any calls coming from private or blocked numbers. If someone called from a private or blocked number, the phone would not ring but show it as a missed call.

Gda Hanley said the woman woke up on January 1, 2021, to 176 missed calls and one voicemail. The voicemail was from her Cunningham, who was in prison in Mountjoy. On a second occasion, she woke to find 13 missed calls and a voicemail. Between January 30 and January 31, 2021, she received a further 150 missed calls.

The court heard that on March 16, 2021, the woman received 161 missed calls and a voicemail which said: “I'm getting sick of you making a fool out of me. You better start answering your phone.”

On March 19, 2021, the woman received 323 missed calls and four voicemails. Cunningham said in the voicemails that “you have 10 minutes to answer your phone, or it's your sister's house”. He also said: “I swear to god, I'm getting you.”

The woman changed her phone number on March 25, 2021, and several days later received a call to her place of work stating that “if she is still working there by Friday, there will be a car going through the shop window”.

Gda Hanley said that between January 1, 2021, and March 13, 2021, the accused made 32 legitimate phone calls using the phone system in Mountjoy Prison. The gardaí analysed cell data to show that the remaining calls had pinged from three cell towers in the Mountjoy area.

The gardaí issued a warrant, and Cunningham was arrested in prison. During an interview, he did not accept any responsibility for the missed calls or voicemails.

In her victim impact statement, the woman said: “I know now it is not normal to be threatened day after day...I thought my life was over, and I thought he was going to kill me”.

Gda Hanley agreed with Oisin Clarke, BL, defending, that the calls occurred over a short period of time and that the guilty pleas offered by his client were of assistance to the gardaí.

Counsel said that his client had written a letter to the court outlining his unreserved apology to his ex-partner and her family. He said his client is embarrassed and ashamed of what he said in the voicemails.

Counsel said the accused was in prison when Covid-19 restrictions came into place, and his mental health began to suffer.

Judge Crowe said Cunningham's letter of apology contained a degree of victim-blaming which “causes some concern” to the court. She said Cunningham's actions were about controlling his former partner.

Judge Crowe noted that Cunningham had several disciplinary infractions while in custody, and the Probation Service put him at high risk of re-offending.

She said the aggravating factors include the volume of calls made over the three-month period, that Cunningham was in custody at the time and has relevant previous convictions.

Judge Crowe said the mitigating factors taken into consideration include the guilty plea and apology.

She also directed Cunningham to stay away from the victim while in custody and during the suspended portion of the sentence. Cunningham was also directed to have no contact with the victim by any means while in custody.


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