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Detective jailed for harassing solicitor sees appeal denied

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Eve Doherty’s harassment of state solicitor Elizabeth Howlin included putting up leaflets in her neighbourhood

Eve Doherty’s harassment of state solicitor Elizabeth Howlin included putting up leaflets in her neighbourhood

Collins Courts.

Eve Doherty’s harassment of state solicitor Elizabeth Howlin included putting up leaflets in her neighbourhood

A detective garda has lost a Supreme Court bid to overturn her conviction for harassing a state solicitor by sending abusive communications.

In dismissing Eve Doherty's appeal, the five-judge Supreme Court clarified the law concerning harassment, but stressed it is "highly desirable" that the relevant 1997 legislation be updated to provide "effective" statutory protection.

Developments in communications and technology since 1997 only emphasise "the many ways in which people, sometimes themselves disturbed, and sometimes simply malicious, can torture their fellow human beings and the dreadful psychic toll that such behaviour can exact on those who have the misfortune to be the victim of it", Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell said.

Doherty, aged in her 50s, of Blackglen Road, Sandyford, previously had the balance of her three-year sentence suspended by the Court of Appeal.

Her 2017 trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that, over an 18-month period, letters and emails were sent to the home and workplace of state solicitor Elizabeth Howlin, scurrilously calling her "corrupt", an "incompetent useless hobbit" and a "two-faced bitch".

Leaflets were also placed on cars and pillars in her neighbourhood.

At the time in question, 2011 to 2013, Ms Howlin worked with the DPP, where she was involved in deciding whether to direct criminal prosecutions and Doherty was a detective sergeant in the Garda crime and security division.

The court heard Ms Howlin did not know Doherty until the trial, and Doherty was then in a relationship with Ms Howlin's ex-partner.

Doherty was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in January 2018 after being found guilty by a jury on a charge of harassing Ms Howlin between September 2011 and March 2013.

She denied the charge and was acquitted on two counts of making false statements.

In July last year, the Court of Appeal suspended the remainder of her sentence after finding a straight three-year sentence in this case involved an error in principle.

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Elizabeth Howlin

Elizabeth Howlin

Elizabeth Howlin

Doherty's Supreme Court appeal centred on construction of section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, which creates the offence of harassment.

Section 10 provides, inter alia, that any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, by any means including a phone, harasses another "by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating" with him or her, will be guilty of an offence.

In judgments yesterday, all five judges agreed Doherty's conviction should be upheld on the wrong of harassment of the victim through communicating with her.

Blitz

They found it was open to the jury, both on the evidence and the manner in which the trial judge instructed them, to conclude Doherty's conduct amounted to communicating with the victim as provided for in section 10.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton, who gave the main judgment on the communication issue, noted an "email blitz" was anonymously directed by the accused, whereby the "most nasty and derogatory things" were said about the victim.

The single instance event of leafleting of an entire neighbourhood was of itself a "persistent interference with the human right of the victim to be left in peace", he said.