A judge has warned a man previously jailed for harassing six journalists that prison time is inevitable if he breaches the conditions of a suspended sentence.
Brendan Doolin (41) of Leighlin Road, Crumlin, was sentenced at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in 2019 to five years in prison, with the final two years suspended.
Doolin, described by his lawyers as an “internet troll”, had admitted harassing Sarah Griffin, Kate McEvoy, Sinead O’Carroll, Christine Bohan, Roe McDermott and Aoife Barry by sending them hundreds of abusive online messages on dates between May 2012 and February 2018.
On Tuesday Judge Martin Nolan handed Doolin a three-year sentence, which he suspended for three years on strict conditions. He ordered the sentence to run consecutively to the suspended portion of Doolin’s previous sentence. The new sentence will come into effect in December.
Judge Nolan said if all matters had been dealt with at the same time, he would have given Doolin a longer sentence.
Noting Doolin had served his sentence, Judge Nolan said: “At this stage in life, he is bothering no one we know of at least. I assume a good eye is being kept on him.”
He said Doolin is an “unusual personality” who “lives an unusual life”. He said the court considered that “it probably would not be just” to imprison him at this stage.
Judge Nolan warned Doolin that if he breaches court orders not to contact the injured parties or the terms of this suspended sentence, he would be brought back before the court again and “prison time is inevitable”.
At a hearing on Monday, the court heard Doolin was released from custody in December 2021 and has not reoffended since.
Eoghan Cole BL, representing the State, said that after Doolin had been charged with the harassment offences and facing trial, he committed multiple breaches of his bail condition not to be in any contact whatsoever with any of the injured parties, either directly or indirectly.
Doolin pleaded guilty to one count of harassment on dates between August 8th, 2018 and August 6th, 2019.
A prosecuting garda told Mr Cole that in April and May 2019, Kate McEvoy and Sarah Griffin contacted gardaí to report that posts were being made about them online in language similar to that used previously by Doolin.
Gardaí got a warrant to search Doolin’s house and seized his laptop. He told gardaí he didn’t own a phone.
The laptop was analysed and found to contain photos of Kate McEvoy and Roe McDermott taken in the atrium of Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, linked to a particular model of smartphone.
A second search was carried out of Doolin’s home and the smartphone in question was found concealed under his floor boards containing the photos. Doolin admitted the phone was his.
Mr Cole said that separately, Doolin had made up email addresses very similar to the names of some of the injured parties and then used these emails to post obnoxious or upsetting messages online.
Ms McDermott, Ms Griffin and Ms McEvoy reported that they were contacted by others at various times in 2019 asking why they were posting such messages.
Ms Griffin said people including fellow writers would get negative comments from her from an email similar to her name, in what she felt was “an attack on her livelihood”.
One comment made to look like it had been posted by Ms Griffin said: “You’re going to be ripped into tiny pieces all in good time.”
Ms Griffin cancelled certain public engagements, the court heard, due to a fear that Doolin would be monitoring her.
Counsel told the court that Doolin also responded to several legitimate tweets posted by the injured parties by using “uncomplimentary, unflattering or abusive” language, describing them as “dull, cowardly, classist, white feminist”.
Doolin also responded to a social media post by Ms Griffin’s husband by commenting: “We know where you are, all in good time.”
Password reset requests
Aoife Barry, Sarah Griffin and Kate McEvoy also reported that they received multiple password reset requests after Doolin tried to enter their emails, knowing that this meant they would receive messages asking them to change their passwords.
None of the six injured parties were present in court although all submitted victim impact statements which were not read aloud.
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Mr Cole said a theme of all the victim impact statements was a wish shared by the women that Doolin would receive whatever help he needs to overcome his problems.
Keith Spencer BL, defending Doolin, said his client’s bail breaches were of a “lower order” than his original offending, describing it as “more nuisance behaviour”.
Mr Spencer said that Doolin had been suffering from profound mental health difficulties at the time but has since corrected his behaviour and expressed remorse.
“He doesn’t even operate computers now, he doesn’t go near them because he’s afraid and he knows that there are orders in place,” said Mr Spencer, pointing out that Doolin continues to cooperate with the Probation Service.