'Unhealthy interest' | 

Teen who trolled BBC journalist now has 'uncontrollable obsession' with RTE broadcaster

As a result, the detective asked for an extra bail condition compelling the teen to stay away from her, "the RTE campus and the general Dublin 4 area".
BBC journalist Aileen Moynagh. Pic BBC

BBC journalist Aileen Moynagh. Pic BBC

Tom Tuite

A Dublin youth awaiting sentence for online harassment of a BBC journalist has developed an "uncontrollable obsession" with an RTE broadcaster, a court heard.

The 17-year-old boy, who had 30 to 40 online aliases, could face additional charges, the Dublin Children's Court was told today.

In September, he pleaded guilty to harassing BBC News Northern Ireland journalist Aileen Moynagh between October 25, 2020, until the end of February this year.

The court heard that the boy, who has a range of disorders, trolled her online after developing an "obsessive crush".

He cannot be identified because he is a minor.

The boy had been previously cautioned about similar activities against two RTE journalists and had an "unhealthy interest" in women in the news media.

Since he was aged eight, his family had been trying to get him assistance, but services were not made available, the court also heard.

Judge Paul Kelly had asked for a victim impact statement to be drafted and adjourned sentencing for probation and welfare reports on the boy to be furnished.

The case resumed today. Defence counsel Amy Deane said the Probation Service sought an adjournment because of the boy's "complex history".

Detective Garda Kenneth McGreevy, who carried out the investigation, said the BBC journalist required more time to complete her victim impact statement and may wish to attend the proceedings.

He told the court that since the media publicised the case, a young lady came forward. She is now in the process of making a complaint against the boy.

The detective said if there were new charges, it would be best to join them to the current case.

Furthermore, Detective Garda McGreevy said the boy had informed his parents he had recently “developed a similar obsession” with another woman journalist in RTE.

Her name was not read out but written on paper and handed over to Judge Kelly.

As a result, the detective asked for an extra bail condition compelling the teen to stay away from her, "the RTE campus and the general Dublin 4 area".

The detective explained this restriction was necessary because the teen had an "uncontrollable obsession" and could prevent a confrontation with the other journalist.

She has not made a complaint, and nothing of a criminal nature has happened so far.

Judge Kelly added it to the list of bail terms and warned the boy he must not contact her directly or indirectly. The teen, accompanied to court by his father, spoke briefly, saying "yes" when asked if he understood.

The court had already restricted his movements and ordered that his internet access is for educational purposes only.

Judge Kelly adjourned the case for six weeks.

He does not have permission to leave Dublin unless his parents and the detective approve. In addition, he must stay out of the North.

Earlier, Detective Garda McGreevy told Judge Kelly that Ms Moynagh detailed unsolicited and unwanted communications from the boy, then aged 16, via email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

At one point, the boy travelled to Belfast despite being warned by gardai not to contact her, and he went to within a couple of hundred yards of her workplace.

He had been barred from Twitter 150 times under various aliases.

The court heard the "high functioning" boy was shocked when Ms Moynagh's statement was read to him. It outlined that at one stage, she had thought it was an adult sending the messages. Out of fear, she moved out of her house for five days and was concerned about her movements.

She had reported it to the PSNI, but the complaint was not passed on to the Republic, and the journalist later contacted the gardai.

Detective Garda McGreevy told the court some messages were threatening and very upsetting or contained pages of rants.

Initially, the teenager's communications seemed innocent, but it was a "spider's web" and became abusive and emotionally threatening.

In September, the detective garda raised concerns that the boy had also sent unwanted messages to a female student in Galway.

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