What The Papers Say
Tuesday, December 21, 1999
"Man gets jail for Internet libel concerning teacher"
A man who spread Internet messages alleging one of his former teachers was a
paedophile has been jailed for 2½ years. He sent the messages to Internet
bulletin sites and by email to another teacher in his former school. It was
the first case of its kind to come before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
The 26-year-old west Dublin resident, who cannot be named by direction of
Judge Elizabeth Dunne, also went to gardaí three times to make allegations
about the teacher. The court heard that a file on the teacher was sent to
the DPP before the accusations were discovered to be false. When the
defendant was charged with libellous defamation, he was released on bail and
again wrote messages about the teacher on the Internet.
His victim told Judge Dunne his life had been a "nightmare" since the
allegations. One of the defamatory libels falsely alleged a named person had
asked up to 10 people to film nude boys for him and that he had also asked
the defendant to do the same.
Before he was sentenced, the defendant said he was "deeply sorry" for what
he wrote. He admitted that on December 3rd, 1997, and on June 22nd, 1998, at
Cyber Cafe in South Great George's Street, Dublin, he maliciously published
defamatory libels on the Internet knowing them to be false. He has been in
custody for 19 months.
Det Garda Seamus Boyle told Ms Una Ní Raifeartaigh, prosecuting, the
defendant told gardaí his teacher had sexually abused him at school. He said
other former students had also been abused, but they denied this.
Ms Ní Raifeartaigh said in January a jury found the accused fit to stand
trial and he later changed his plea to guilty.
A psychiatrist, Dr Tom McGonagle, told Mr Erwin MillArden SC, defending,
that the defendant suffered from Asberger's Syndrome, a rare condition which
manifests itself in an inability to act appropriately in a social situation.
He was unable to pick up another person's tone or gesturing, which could
lead to inappropriate social behaviour.
He said when he visited him in Mountjoy Prison the defendant broke into 10
minutes of conversations about Land Rovers. He had huge difficulties in
Dr McGonagle said the defendant was almost strangled last week in Mountjoy
and his cell mates had shaved off his hair. He annoyed "very dangerous"
people in prison. He agreed with Raifeartaigh that the defendant knew the
difference between truth and falsehood.
Judge Dunne said she took his guilty plea into consideration and recommended
that he serve his sentence in the Central Mental Hospital. The crime was as
serious as any criminal defamation and she had to mark its seriousness.