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Man sent for trial accused of sending sexually explicit videos to Fine Gael TD

Gerard Culhane has not yet indicated how he will plead.

A LIMERICK MAN accused of sending Fine Gael politician Jennifer Carroll MacNeill sexually explicit videos via Facebook has been sent forward for trial.

Gerard Culhane, 43, with an address at Marian Place, Glin, Co Limerick, is charged with harassing the Dun Laoghaire TD between 13 January and 26 March, 2020.

Detective Sergeant Rachel Kilpatrick served him with a book of evidence when he appeared at Dun Laoghaire District Court today. 

State solicitor Niamh McKernan informed Judge Ann Watkin that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) consented to Mr Culhane being returned for trial on indictment.

Judge Watkin granted the trial order sending him forward to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on 27 January.

Mr Culhane, who remained silent during the hearing, has not yet indicated how he will plead.

The judge warned that he must notify the prosecution if he intended to use an alibi, and she also ordered gardai to provide the defence with copies of his interviews.

Mr Culhane, unemployed, was allowed legal aid following an application from defence counsel Robert Crowley, instructed by solicitor Eddie O’Connor.

On 10 August, a court heard Detective Sergeant Rachael Kilpatrick met Mr Culhane by appointment at Dundrum garda station, and she charged him.

Under caution, he replied: “No, I accept the charge.”

She had no objection to bail but had asked for conditions.

Although the DPP directed a summary trial in the District Court, Judge Watkin ruled that the offence was too serious. Refusing jurisdiction, she held it should be dealt with in the Circuit Court, which has broader sentencing powers.

Outlining the allegations, Detective Sergeant Kilpatrick had said 19 communications were sent via the Facebook messenger app.

They included three videos of “sexually explicit content” featuring a male masturbating.

Pictures of the complainant, which had already been in the public domain, were also sent.

There were also 14 text messages with general conversation about upcoming events in her life “and emojis and kisses”.

Detective Sergeant Kilpatrick said the complainant was a public representative, and they were not known to each other personally.

Judge Watkin said it would have been relatively harmless but for the videos.

Cross-examined by Mr Crowley, Detective Sergeant Kilpatrick agreed the clips were not of the defendant but came from a porn website.

However, she alleged Mr Culhane suggested that “they were of the defendant himself”.

Judge Watkin said it would have been pretty horrific and frightening for the complainant.

She said: “I think if someone were to receive that, it is not just upsetting, it is the fear what a person might do; I think the fear it created would have been huge.”

As part of the conditions, he has to sign on once weekly at a local garda station.

Mr Culhane also has to live at his current residence or inform gardaí of any address change, and he had to provide them with a mobile phone number.

In addition, he must have no contact directly or indirectly, including via social media, with the TD.

Ms Carroll MacNeill, the vice-chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party and its spokesperson for equality, was elected to the Dáil in February last year.