By Fiona Ferguson
A successful businesswoman from Cavan who harassed three former employees by phone and email has been given a suspended sentence.
Helen Rahill, 59, “felt hard done by” after her former employees bought out her company when it went into liquidation. She sent over 90 emails and made over 600 calls over a ten-month period.
Rahill, of River Crescent, Virginia, Cavan, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to three counts of harassment against Fergus Agnew, Susan Naughton, and David Murphy at an unknown location by persistently pestering them by phone and email between January and October 2015.
She has no previous convictions.
The names of Rahill's former company or of her former employees' new company were not given in open court. The three injured parties did not wish to make victim impact statements or attend court.
Judge Martin Nolan noted Rahill had felt “hard done by” and felt a “good degree of resentment” towards her former employees. He said he had no doubt her behaviour was “quite distressing” for the victims
He said Rahill had been very successful in a number of businesses and was a very energetic lady who contributed to her community. He said she was remorseful and he did not think she would re-offend.
Judge Nolan imposed a three-year suspended sentence and ordered her to have no contact with the injured parties.
Detective Garda Orla Madden told Eoin Lawlor BL, prosecuting, that the three injured parties used to work for a company founded by Rahill and in which she was part owner. In 2011, the company went into liquidation.
During the course of the liquidation, the three former employees formed a new company and bought the assets of Rahill's former company. They then continued to run the business.
The court heard Rahill was initially “quite sanguine” about matters, but in January 2015 her view began to change. She began emailing and phoning both the individuals and the company.
Mr Lawlor handed in to Judge Nolan a “master list” of 93 emails sent by Rahill during the relevant time. He said these ranged from coherent complaints to abusive messages with allegations of immorality and criminality.
Mr Agnew, with whom Rahill had previously been in a relationship, described in his statement receiving 30 calls per week.
Rahill apologised in May 2015 for the way she had treated the injured parties but then began the behaviour again despite having been sent a solicitor's letter asking her to stop.
She ceased the behaviour when charged with the offences by gardaí and has abided by her bail conditions since then, including having no contact with the injured parties.
Det Gda Madden agreed with Tara Burns SC, defending, that during the course of the liquidation of Rahill's company the liquidator had attempted to sell the software programme that was the basis of the company, but was unable to, unless the employees maintained the software.
The garda agreed the employees came to an agreement with the liquidator and set up a new company which took over the old company's customer base.
Ms Burns said Rahill came from a family of Cavan hoteliers and had shown “acute business acumen” from an early age. She said she had started studying accountancy but returned to help with the family business after her father's death.
Counsel said Rahill's mother later fell sick and the hotel was sold. Rahill continued to show a keen interest in the area of finance and accountancy and also trained in computer systems.
She set up her company in 1992 developing software packages for businesses after receiving redundancy from a job as an IT manager. Counsel said this company had been Rahill's “life work” and she had invested a substantial amount of money in it.
Ms Burns said the company was a success but following a number of bad business decisions and the the recession hitting in 2009, the company went into liquidation. The liquidator was then unable to sell the software without the employees to maintain it.
She said afterwards Rahill did a data marketing course but later began to “ruminate on things”. She said Rahill was also having difficulties with alcohol at this time.
She said Rahill acted in a “disgraceful manner” and had written a letter accepting what she had done and expressing remorse.
Counsel said Rahill had a number of health difficulties and was now off alcohol. She was pursuing data marketing work, as well as participating in charity work in her locality after realising she needed new focus in her life. She asked the court to consider a non-custodial sentence.