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Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Man gets suspended sentence after sending sexually explicit videos to Fine Gael TD

The TD had safety concerns, particularly as she was meeting with members of the public during an election campaign

A MAN WHO sent sexually explicit videos to a Fine Gael TD during the 2020 general election campaign has been handed a suspended sentence and ordered to stay away from Leinster House.

Gerard Culhane (43) of Marian Place, Glin, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to harassing Jennifer Carroll MacNeill at unknown places within the State on dates between 13 January 2020 and 26 March 2020. He has no previous convictions.

Imposing sentence today Judge Patricia Ryan said the period in question had been “very disturbing and frightening” for the TD, particularly as it occurred during a general election campaign when she was meeting people.

The judge imposed a one-year custodial sentence suspended for 12 months on strict conditions.

She ordered Culhane to have no contact with the TD in person, by social media or via a third party for a period of five years.

Judge Ryan also directed Culhane to stay away from Carroll MacNeill’s place of work at Leinster House, her constituency offices and her residence.

The court previously heard that Culhane sent the TD 13 messages over the period in question, including three sexually explicit videos, which he later admitted to Gardaí he had downloaded from a pornographic website.

Judge Ryan said the aggravating factors in this case included the amount of messages sent and the effect the harassment had on the TD during an “important”, “busy and stressful part of her life”.

As a result, the TD had safety concerns, particularly as she was meeting with members of the public during an election campaign.

It would have been a “distressing and frightening” experience for the TD to not know the identity of the person harassing her “when she was meeting people on a daily basis,” Judge Ryan said.

Setting the headline sentence at two years, she noted that Culhane appeared at the time to be very socially isolated and dealing with a medical issue at the time of the offending.

Judge Ryan noted the mitigating factors include the guilty plea, the lack of previous convictions, and Culhane’s co-operation with Gardaí.

Taking the mitigating factors into account, the judge imposed a one-year prison sentence, which she suspended for 12 months on strict conditions.

Defence counsel Karl Monahan BL said the probation report indicates that his client is at low risk of re-offending.

His client also told the probation officer that he wished to apologise to the TD and was remorseful for his actions.

“In hindsight, if he could change the decision he made, he would”, Monahan said, adding that his client deeply regrets the effect of his actions on the TD, her family and his own family.

Defence counsel also handed in a testimonial from a member of a sports club on behalf of Culhane.

Monahan also confirmed that Culhane had made a donation to Aoibhneas Womens Refuge in Coolock, Dublin, a charity nominated by Carroll MacNeill.

In her victim impact statement, Carroll MacNeill previously told the court that she would rather spend her time more constructively working in the Oireachtas, serving her constituents and spending time with her young son rather than being in court.

“But because some man thought it was okay to invade my life and my mind and my sense of security because of whatever twisted purpose he got out of it, I have to use my time to pursue it,” she said.

“I do not choose to be sexualised in this way, to be in media articles with sexual content. But because some man decided to send me sexually explicit videos, it is there for ever more for everyone to see. All of this is without my consent,” Carroll MacNeill said.

She said didn’t wish to be “a victim”.

“I am a private person and I just don’t like it,” the TD said, before adding she was “keen to downplay” the case.

“No one should have to get unsolicited sexual content. It greatly impacted me in the process of trying to become an elected representative,” she continued.

“When you are running an election, the key objective is to physically meet people. I was afraid for the first time.”

She felt didn’t know where the threat was, or what the nature of it was. “Was the person far away from me, crossing the road towards me. What were they going to do? Was I going to be attacked?”

Detective Sergeant Rachael Kilpatrick previously told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting that the messages came from a Facebook account in the name of a “Kevin Walsh” and involved three videos, one of which showed a male masturbating.

She said this video was sent to Carroll MacNeill and accompanied by a winking, a smiley face and love heart emoji.

She received a further message that night which was a thumbs up saying “Stay warm gorgeous” with a second thumbs up. A further message said “Hi Jen, you will be the best-looking TD in the Dáil in a few weeks”.

Later that same evening, she received two further messages, one which read, “love your campaign poster, you look stunning in it” and another message which said, “I must have a hot bath” followed by winky, thumbs up and love heart emojis.

A further message was sent showing a man looking in a mirror, suggestively pulling his boxers shorts down.

Det Sgt Kilpatrick said Carroll MacNeill woke the following morning to find six additional messages from the account. One was of a male, wearing pink underwear, masturbating, along with a winking, kiss and love heart emoji.

She was also sent a photograph of herself taken at the 40 foot in Dun Laoghaire along with another politician, previously published and attached to it was a message: “You look so sexy. What a great body you have.”

 Det Sgt Kilpatrick agreed that Ms Carroll MacNeill did not respond to any of the messages she received.

 She contacted the gardaí to report what had happened and seek advice. The messages, photographs and videos were sent between January and March 2020.

 A garda investigation was launched to try and establish the identity of Kevin Walsh and Culhane was ultimately nominated as a suspect. A warrant was executed to search his home in Limerick in July 2020.

Det Sgt Kilpatrick said Culhane immediately admitted that he knew why the Gardaí were there. He handed over his phone and provided Gardaí with his password for Facebook.

He admitted that he sent male nude messages and acknowledged that he had received no responses to his messages. He said the videos and images were not of himself rather he had downloaded them from pornography sites.

Det Sgt Kilpatrick agreed with Karl Monahan BL defending that Culhane, who lives in Limerick with his parents, has not come to Garda attention before or since.

 She agreed that he expressed remorse, made admissions and apologised. He said it was “stupidity” that made him do it, adding, “if I could take it back I would”.

Monahan said his client has been unemployed since 2004 and lives off social welfare payments. He stopped drinking in 2017 and became socially isolated as he stopped meeting friends.

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Sonya McLean and Eimear Dodd