Dublin actress to be sentenced in June over online harassment of CBeebies TV star Ferne Corrigan

Frances Winston at a previous court sitting

A Dublin actress will be sentenced in June for a Twitter and email harassment campaign of a BBC children’s television presenter.

Frances Winston, 45, has pleaded guilty to harassing CBeebies star Ferne Corrigan on social media.

Winston, who is also a writer and a comedian, faced her fifth hearing today before Judge Michael Walsh at Dublin District Court.

Defence solicitor Colleen Gildernew told the court the case would take some time to hear the facts.

She suggested Judge Walsh read statements handed in to court by the investigating garda.

She said it may be more manageable and faster than the alternative that “a number of tweets and emails” would have to be read out in court.

Sentencing was adjourned for four weeks after Judge Walsh said he wanted to consider a victim impact report, garda statements as well as a psychological report on Winston. He said he would have to assess the impact on the victim in her personal life and that might take some time.

Ferne Corrigan, host of My Pet And Me and Ferne and Rory’s Vet Tales, was not present for the hearing. However, Detective Sergeant Jonathan Kelly said he had received typed victim impact statement from her which he handed in to court.

He told the court it was lengthy “because it detailed every tweet”.

Ms Winston, who has an address at Rathgar Road, Dublin 6, faces a single count under Section 10.1 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

She was accused that on an on-going basis between February 19, 2016 and May 20, 2017, at various unknown locations she harassed Ferne Corrigan.

Fern Corrigan

At her first hearing in September 2018, Detective Sergeant Jonathan Kelly told the court Ms Winston, was charged at Irishtown Garda station after which “she made no reply.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions had directed the case should be dealt with at district court level and not in the circuit court, which has tougher sentencing powers.

After hearing an outline of the case against the accused, Judge Walsh had accepted jurisdiction.

Detective Sergeant Kelly told the court it was alleged, “The defendant engaged in an online campaign of harassment against a named individual who is not resident in the State, and used various social media platforms to harass this individual in a very public way.”

Judge Walsh had asked if they were connected and the Garda said they were not directly linked but he added:

“The injured party is the daughter of the defendant’s former partner.”

The defence solicitor had successfully resisted the garda’s application for an absolute ban on her client using social media “of any type”.

The judge had agreed to her request that the order in relation to using social media would be limited to the injured party.

He has also warned that if Ms Winston were foolish enough to make contact it could lead to further charges.

Ms Winston cannot have any contact with the injured party, or members of her family and her friends, by any means.

He warned her she could not contact Ferne Corrigan and this included social media, emails, “any manner whatsoever”.

She was also told to reside at her current address and she had to give gardai her phone number.

Ms Winston played murder plotter Sharon “Lying Eyes” Collins in a 2017 TV3 reconstruction of that case.

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