A man who harassed a Fine Gael TD by sending her unsolicited sexual content online during the last general election campaign has been handed a fully suspended sentence.
Gerard Culhane from Marian Place, Glin, Co Limerick, admitted harassing Jennifer Carroll MacNeill on various dates between January 13th 2020 and March 26th 2020.
At Gerard Culhane’s sentence hearing, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill told the court she had to ‘question her personal safety for the first time‘ as a result of what he did.
It was in the run-up to the last general election that the harassment took place.
She went on to win a seat for Fine Gael in the Dun Laoghaire constituency but described how she was afraid while on the campaign trail because she had to be out and about a lot and often wondered whether the contact was a precursor to something else.
Over a 3-month period, Culhane sent her thirteen messages, including three sexually explicit videos. The court used a fake Facebook account to harass her.
In the end, the 43-year-old, who’s living with his parents in Limerick, admitted everything and said he was sorry. He was handed a fully suspended one-year sentence today and ordered to stay away from Ms Carroll MacNeill – both in-person and online.
Following the sentencing, Ms Carroll MacNeill urged women who receive unwanted sexual messages to report the matter to gardaí.
“I recognise that because of my position as an elected public representative that there is an additional degree of interest or meaning in this case. However, there are many women facing the same thing I did, unwanted advances, whether online or in person,” she said.
“And so, I want to say clearly that it is not acceptable to send unwanted sexual content – to have to receive it at any time of day – whether intended frivolously or threateningly – sending unwanted sexual content is not normal, it is not acceptable.
“If you are in this situation, or any other that is happening without your consent, it is possible to bring those concerns to An Garda Siochana – you will be taken seriously, the criminal justice system is there to support you. And while I recognise that it is not pleasant to be here, indeed I have said already I have absolutely no wish to be here, it is possible to put an end to the experience through the criminal justice system and I hope someone may hear that today.”