Disgraced former politician Ivor Callely has been given an eight-month suspended sentence after admitting he “flipped” and repeatedly ransacked a GP’s waiting room in a “bizarre” and “sustained” harassment campaign.
Callely, 60, was caught red-handed after Dr James Dolan installed a hidden camera in his practice at 191 Howth Road, in Dublin 3.
It secretly filmed him breaking a saddle board, pouring rubbish, scattering dirt over the floor and on reading material in the doctor’s waiting room, and smearing the wall with teabags and dust.
Judge Kevin Staunton said while his actions seemed like a comedy sketch it was designed to cause as much grief as possible to the doctor.
The ex-Fianna Fáil Minster of State, who was jailed for five months in 2014 over an expenses scandal, faced a court hearing today on harassment and criminal damage charges.
Dublin District Court heard that Dr James Dolan, who had sublet his practice from Callely, was left filled with dread. There was a dispute between the pair which has led to litigation in the civil courts over electricity costs, Judge Staunton was told.
Today, Callely of St Lawrence, Clontarf pleaded guilty through his solicitor to one harassment charge and seven counts of criminal damage on seven dates in May and June last year.
The suntanned former junior transport minister, dressed in navy blazer, grey trousers and white shirt and a silver tie, did not give evidence.
Garda Declan O’Carolan told Judge Staunton the accused was arrested and charged on June 21 last at Clontarf station.
Garda O’Carolan said Callely made no reply to charge after caution and he was handed a true copy of the charges before he was released on on station bail to appear at the district court today.
The Director of Public Prosecution directed summary disposal meaning the former TD and senator’s case should remain in the district court and not be sent forward to the circuit court which has tougher sentencing powers.
Garda O’Carolan told the district court the injured party, Dr James Dolan, ran his practice from the property and had reported that he was the victim of “incidents of a malicious nature”.
He installed a hidden CCTV system which captured a number of incidents in the waiting room of his practice on seven dates between May 3 and June 7, 2017.
The offences happened during offices hours and while the doctor was seeing patients in his surgery, the court was told.
On May 3, Callely damaged carpet and a saddle board and threshold to the waiting room and threw items of litter around.
On May 9, Callely emptied waste on the floor and returned with a brush to spread it around.
On May 11, he again threw waste items on the waiting room floor and returned with more waste and came back a third time when he threw more rubbish in the room.
Callely returned on May 16 and stood by the door of the surgery while the doctor was having a private consultation with a patient.
He then threw pieces of paper around the waiting room and tore up magazines left there by the doctor as reading material for his patients.
During this incident he also positioned his head and face against the door of the surgery at the handle level while the doctor was inside with a patient.
The court was told that the following day when he came back, “he removed something from his mouth and put it on the floor and emptied waste items on the floor”. He also smeared dust on the wall.
He left but re-entered and tore magazines provided by the doctor for his patients.
On May 26 he smeared tea bags on the wall and later came back drinking a cup of tea.
The court heard that on June 7, Callely again damaged the saddle board and threshold at the waiting room and poured dust from a vacuum cleaner into the pages of the magazines which he then poured waste over.
He came back again that day with a brush to sweep dirt onto the walls.
The total value of the damage was €500.
Defence solicitor Noel O’Hanrahan told Judge Kevin Staunton that his client was pleading guilty.
In 2014, Callely was jailed by the circuit court for using false invoices to claim expenses €4,207.45 at Leinster House, Kildare Street between November 2007 and December 2009 while he was a member of the Seanad.
The court also heard he had two other convictions for holding a mobile phone while driving and driving without an NCT.
The Garda agreed with the defence solicitor that Callely co-operated.
The solicitor issued an apology on behalf of his client who handed over €500 compensation in court.
The Garda agreed Callely was the main tenant in the building and the doctor was a sub-tenant, adding, “My understanding is Mr Callely wanted the doctor to leave the building”.
Callely blamed him for stealing electricity, the court heard.
The defence pleaded with the judge for mercy and to consider applying the Probation Act. Mr O’Hanrahan asked the judge to note Callely has been the subject of “extraordinary vitriolic publicity”.
He said the ex-politician was broke, involved in litigation and had marital problems.
He told the court how his client’s troubles have “come in battalions”; he was under inordinate pressure and assaulted by adversity on all sides”, and would now face further humiliation in the media.
Mr O’Hanrahan said his client “flipped and did a very stupid thing which he apologises for”.
The defence lawyer said it was out of character; there was no excuse for it and it was not driven by “gratuitous malice” adding that there was a context.
The solicitor said Callely, “lost it and flipped” but “unreservedly apologises”.
He asked the judge to note the compensation paid and said Callely was unlikely to commit an offence in the future. The Garda agreed he had not come to further attention.
Dr Dolan gave victim impact evidence. He said his practice has operated out of the building for 30 years but this had been going on for a year and a half and, “I go to work with a sense of dread.” He said the rest of the building was in a derelict state; the intercom, lock and toilets were broken.
In reaction to the dirt on the floors and the walls, at first he felt “puzzled” and thought it was children messing “but it became relentless and I suspected Mr Callely and put the camera in”.
The CCTV footage was not shown during the hearing.
Describing the impact on his practice the doctor said he had to explain to patients that “something is going on, by and large they are very understanding”.
Sentencing, Judge Kevin Staunton described Callely’s behaviour as “very bizarre” and said he had “listened to the evidence with some incredulity”.
“If it had not been captured on CCTV it would have been very difficult for the court to accept it happened,” he said.
He noted he was former political figure and now financially broke, facing litigation on various fronts and was under immense pressure.
“Unfortunately,” he continued, “he did not flip once...There seems to be an element of sustained harassment here which the court cannot ignore.”
He described Callely’s actions as “an attempt to seriously damage the practice of Mr Dolan”.
He remarked that the doctor had to go to work “looking over his shoulder”.
“This behaviour is almost something you would see in a comedy sketch” and he could see why the doctor initially thought it was kids messing.
But, the judge added, “it was designed to cause as much grief as possible to Dr Dolan".
On the harassment charge he imposed an eight-month sentence which he suspended on condition Callely does not re-offend in the next year. The other charges were taken into consideration.
Callely, standing before the judge, showed no emotion when the sentence was given and spoke once during the hearing to confirm his signature on his good behaviour bond.