A CASTLEBAR man who harassed his sister by sending her ‘sexually explicit’ and ‘extremely depraved’ messages through a false alias on social media has been given a suspended sentence for his actions.
Patrick Hussey (29) of 54 Rowan Drive, Castlebar, was before Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court last Wednesday where he pleaded guilty to the single count of harassment.
Garda Stephen McDarby told the court that on September 19 last, Jennifer Hussey came to Castlebar Garda Station to make a complaint about receiving ‘sexually explicit messages’ through her Facebook account under the alias of ‘Amber Night’. After handing over her phone for examination, the account was traced back to her brother, Patrick, who over three interviews with the Gardaí, admitted to sending the messages.
Garda McDarby described the messages as ‘extremely depraved’ and subsequently arrested Mr Hussey for harassment on October 5.
The court heard that Mr Hussey has three previous convictions.
‘Didn’t feel safe’
In a victim impact statement read out in court by Garda McDarby, Jennifer Hussey outlined how she spends a lot of her time on Facebook keeping in contact with friends from all over the world. She said she found Facebook particularly useful for making friendships, as she ‘finds it difficult meeting friends the way other people do’.
The court heard that after receiving the explicit messages from the accused, Ms Hussey felt ‘violated’ and ‘embarrassed’. She also said that she ‘didn’t feel safe’ and ‘felt paranoid that Patrick is after me’.
She continued: ‘I was afraid to engage with anyone online because I thought it might be Patrick. This might not seem like much to anyone else, but Facebook was a huge part of my life.
“I suffer from a heart defect and had a valve inserted that needs replacing every 10-12 years. After these messages, there were times when I would think, ‘What is the point of getting it replaced again?’. “I wasn’t suicidal, but I wanted out,” she said.
Defending barrister Patrick Murphy said that this was a ‘very sad case’ and that his client had a ‘complex family history’ and that he had been exposed to ‘violence and alcohol’ throughout his youth.
He said that his client suffers from mental-health issues and has engaged with the mental-health services and probation services in recent years, and that he receives a fortnightly injection to counteract his psychological issues.
The court heard that a probation report said that Mr Hussey has a ‘moderate risk of re-offending’.
He pleaded with Judge Rory McCabe not to give Patrick Hussey a custodial sentence, which could have a ‘detrimental effect’, and he pointed out his client’s full admission to the charge.
Social media abuse
JUDGE McCabe described this case as ‘a stark example’ of how social media can be used for abuse, adding that this incident was ‘on the higher end on the scale of gravity’.
However, taking Mr Hussey’s ‘complex mental-health background’ in account, he stated that in this case, a custodial sentence was ‘not in the best interests of justice’.
Judge McCabe sentenced Mr Hussey to four years imprisonment, suspended for five years on condition that he continues under the supervision of the probation services and Mayo Mental Health services for the next 12 months.