A Tribute to the Terminally Clueless
Tony Luckwill

What The Papers Say

Irish Times
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 school.

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.