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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Jealous Garda guilty of 18-month 'corrupt b***h' hate campaign

Detective Sergeant Eve Doherty was found guilty of harassing State solicitor Elizabeth Howlin
Detective Sergeant Eve Doherty was found guilty of harassing State solicitor Elizabeth Howlin

A garda detective has been found guilty of harassing a State solicitor by sending her abusive letters and emails.

Eve Doherty (49), a detective sergeant based in Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to a charge of harassing Elizabeth Howlin between September 2011 and March 2013.

She also denied making false statements on two dates in March 2012 claiming Ms Howlin was perverting the course of justice.

At the time, Ms Howlin was working with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), where she was involved in deciding whether or not to direct prosecutions in criminal cases.

Over an 18-month period, letters and emails were sent to Ms Howlin's home, her place of work and to her GP, calling her a "corrupt b***h", an "incompetent, useless hobbit" and a "two-faced b***h".

Upsetting

Ms Howlin said that she found the material very upsetting and distressing, and an invasion of her privacy.

The material, which included A4 posters left around her housing estate, falsely claimed that Ms Howlin was a political appointee and that she would "pull" files to prevent the prosecution of anyone connected to her or the Government.

Ms Howlin is a distant cousin of Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin.

Sgt Doherty had denied being the author of any of the material, which included anonymous emails containing similar allegations.

After a 15-day trial, a jury of five men and six women found the accused guilty of the first charge of harassing Ms Howlin.

The jury returned a not guilty verdict on the two counts of making false statements claiming Ms Howlin was perverting the course of justice.

Judge Melanie Greally thanked the jury, which had been out for just over three hours.

The judge remanded Sgt Doherty on continuing bail until October 27 for sentence.

She noted the conditions of bail included not having any contact with any parties in the proceedings.

The court heard Ms Howlin did not know Sgt Doherty until this trial, and that Sgt Doherty had been in a relationship with the victim's ex-husband.

Emails were sent from the same internet cafe in Dublin city centre to more than 700 recipients, using five anonymous email accounts.

The five email accounts, one of which Sgt Doherty accepted she had used, had hundreds of recipients in common.

A literary comparison by gardai between the emails and documents found in Sgt Doherty's home and work locker identified multiple examples of 60 common features, such as grammatical errors.

Michael O'Higgins, defending, said that Sgt Doherty had previously made protected disclosures about issues in work.

He said that it was not easy to speak out like this and experience has shown that those that do so don't fare very well.

He said that the content in the emails sent amounted to "a crank's charter" but that it was sent with the intention of ventilating the issues, not to harass anyone.

"People have a right to express unreasonable views, if they are genuinely held," Mr O'Higgins said.

He added that this did not mean people could say whatever they wanted without recourse.

Some of the material contained false allegations naming neighbours of Ms Howlin as drug dealers and falsely claiming that Ms Howlin had interfered in their prosecution.

Kerida Naidoo, prosecuting, said that the author of these claims either knew the truth and chose to misrepresent it, or else knew something about a drugs conviction of a member of the family but did not bother to establish the full truth.

Mr Naidoo argued that this was not the conduct of a whistleblower but was the "cowardly conduct of someone prepared to defame innocent people".

He said that some of the material sent contained personal details that only a very small pool of people had access to.

"Whoever wrote these documents had a source of info about Liz Howlin very close to her," counsel said.

He said the relationship with Ms Howlin's ex-husband also provided a motive of jealously for Sgt Doherty.

False

Mr O'Higgins told jurors that the question for them was not whether the statements about Ms Howlin interfering in prosecutions and perverting the course of justice were true.

He said the question was whether or not the person propagating these statements believed them to be true.

To be guilty of making a false statement a person had to know the statement was false, he said.

During the trial, the jury heard that the first letter was sent in September 2011 to Ms Howlin's home and purported to be from her neighbours.

The letter called her "a c**t of a mother" and told her to "f**k off to whatever hell hole you crawled out of".

"We are all watching every move you make," it added.

A second letter was sent around November 2011 to Claire Loftus, Ms Howlin's boss.

The letter incorrectly stated that Ms Howlin was the niece of Brendan Howlin TD.

It called Ms Howlin a "most two-faced, hard-faced b***h" and claimed to Ms Loftus that Ms Howlin was "destroying your good name every opportunity she gets".

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