A man who harassed six female writers and journalists by sending them 100’s of abusive messages online has been jailed for three years.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Brendan Doolin (37) left his home only twice in the previous 17 years prior to these matters being investigated. His lawyers described him as “an internet troll”.
Doolin of Leighlin Road, Crumlin, Dublin pleaded guilty to harassing Sarah Griffin, Kate McEvoy, Sinead O’Carroll, Christine Bohan, Roe McDermott and Aoife Barry on dates between May 2012 and February 2018.
John Berry BL, prosecuting, told Judge Martin Nolan that all the cases shared similar features in that each of the women Doolin targeted either worked as journalists or had a strong social media presence, particularly on twitter.
Judge Nolan said that “undoubtedly the internet had wonderful advantages”, but what the court had heard in this case was “the dark side which allows a man sitting in his house to inflict huge amounts of trauma on six women”.
Passing sentence on Thursday, Judge Nolan said it used to be an advantage of the internet that nobody knew who was speaking and who was out there, but it had turned into a huge disadvantage in many cases. He said the defendant “felt like he was untouchable”.
Judge Nolan said that most of us and most of the women could put up with one, two, three or even a dozen insulting and abusive responses, but there were literally 100’s of responses to what the women said. He said the women were “literally stalked” on the internet by the accused.
He said that all of the complainants asked Doolin to stop, but he persisted. He said he behaved in a “very vindictive way” and when he perceived weaknesses he attacked that weakness.
Judge Nolan said the mitigating factors in the case were Doolin’s guilty plea, his co-operation, his admissions, his expression of remorse, his own difficulties and his unlikelihood of offending in the future.
He said that he had no doubt that Doolin knew the difference between right and wrong and that nothing in the psychiatric report disputed this. He said Doolin offended “grievously” and he persisted in harassing and intimidating and “probably attempting to frighten” the victims.
Judge Nolan sentenced Doolin to five years imprisonment, but suspended the final two years of the sentence on strict condition including that he be under supervision of the Probation Service for two years post release and not contact any of the complainants for the rest of his life.
He made a further order prohibiting Doolin from contacting the six individuals. The court heard that a breach of this order is a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.
Detective Garda Colm Gallagher said Doolin used a number of different email addresses to contact the woman, quite often following an article they had published or a radio or a television appearance. Counsel said this led to the women feeling as if they were under surveillance.
Sinead O’Carroll, a news editor, was contacted and told to “break both legs” after she tweeted to promote an upcoming appearance on a television programme.
Kate McEvoy was informed that the sender of the emails was in the area where she lived and once when she tweeted that her housemate had gone out for the evening, he messaged “good, I’ll be over soon”.
Christine Bohan, who got over 450 messages from Doolin also received a 10 year old political leaflet from him which carried a photograph of her on it. She was also sent an image of her from a dinner at her old college.
Both of these images caused concern to Ms Bohan as she was not named in either and it worried her that the person had “scoured the internet looking for her image”.
Det Gda Gallagher said each of the women received hundreds of emails, usually using the same unusual font, containing insults such as calling the women “wannabes, nobodies, whiteist, bigots, lefties and pseudo intellectuals”
He accused them of being narcissistic attention seekers, self-obsessed and concerned with their own self-promotion, referring to their “twitter bubble” and suggesting that they don’t care for others.
Doolin used the same insult twice with two different women telling them they were “as interesting as a bucket of water and as deep as the goldfish in it” and said in other messages “I love the middle class whiteist, the shiny white people”.
Roe McDermot, a journalist, replied to Doolin telling him that his contact was unwanted and therefore if it continued it would amount to harassment.
“What you do with that information is up to you, but I am making it clear so you don’t have the excuse of feigned ignorance,” Ms McDermott wrote.
Doolin first messaged news editor, Aoife Barry, in response to an article she wrote about male suicide in which he said “I will probably kill myself in the next few years, probably won’t do it now because I am a big chicken”.
Ms Barry became concerned for the person’s safety and replied advising the sender to get in contact with the Samaritans. Doolin then started to send her a number of messages insulting her in a similar manner.
Sarah Griffin, an author who estimated that she received in excess of 450 messages, said in her victim impact report said she remembers being upset and humiliated, but reconciled herself to “the reality that sometimes there are men in the world who are angry at women”.
Ms Griffin said to be stalked in this way was intrinsically a personal violation. She said she did not know what she did to deserve this other than “exist as a young women who liked to write for a living” and that for the accused “perhaps that was enough”.
Doolin also emailed Ms Griffin’s husband who replied and told Doolin that it appeared that he was emailing “any woman in Ireland who has a byline”.