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Saturday 10 December 2016

Ombudsman for Children had to disconnect helpline due to man's abusive calls

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office in Dublin
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office in Dublin

A Dublin man has admitted making more than 500 abusive and nuisance phone calls to the Ombudsman for Children's Office.

Staff were so intimidated and frustrated by the calls that they were forced to disconnect a public helpline because they could not get their work done, a court heard.

Derek Byrne (46) subjected staff at the office to 15 months of harassment before he was arrested on foot of an official complaint. Calls would go on all afternoon and he seemed to be under the influence of an intoxicant by the end of the day.

Dublin District Court heard Byrne, formerly from Crumlin but with an address at Sarah Place, Islandbridge, began contacting the office over the progress of an investigation.

Judge Anthony Halpin adjourned the case for gardai to make further enquiries into this.

Byrne pleaded guilty to six counts of sending grossly offensive telephone messages to named men and women from the office, and one of persistently making menacing calls.

Garda Nicola Connolly told Dublin District Court she was contacted by a man from the office on May 30, 2014, to inform her about phone calls they had received from Byrne.

He was not making an official complaint at that point, but asked Garda Connolly to speak to the accused.

She was contacted again on October 17 that year and a complaint was made about calls and letters the office had received.

The court heard that on dates between July 2013 and October 2014, Byrne contacted the office 563 times by phone.

At times the office had to disconnect the phone line because of the abusive nature of the calls. They had no other way of stopping them because it was a public helpline.

Feared

"Staff felt intimidated and frustrated that they couldn't get their work done," Garda Connolly said.

"They feared that Mr Byrne's behaviour was so erratic he would call to the office."

The calls were downloaded and Garda Connolly described them as "extremely abusive".

"They would start around lunchtime and as the day progressed it became apparent that he was under the influence of an intoxicant," Garda Connolly said.

Byrne has since apologised and expressed remorse.

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