Man who made almost 6,000 phone calls to girlfriend jailed in country's first coercive control conviction

Man who made almost 6,000 phone calls to girlfriend jailed in country's first coercive control conviction
File photo

A man who telephoned and harassed his girlfriend with almost 6,000 phone calls has been jailed for 21 months.

Kevin Dunleavy pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Court in Co. Donegal of carrying out the tirade of abuse against partner Caoimhe Crossan during what was described in court as a "toxic relationship."

Over a three-month period from March until June in 2019, 33-year-old Dunleavy made 5,757 telephone calls to Ms Crossan.

Dunleavy became so obsessed with his girlfriend, who is also the mother of his son, that he forced her to take her phone everywhere with her so he knew where she was.

He even called on her on Facetime and made her scan the place she was so he knew exactly where she was.

He pleaded guilty to a number of charges including coercive control, harassment and making threats to damage property.

In what is the first successful prosecution of coercive control in the country, Judge John Aylmer sentenced the accused to a total of two-and-a-half years but suspended the final nine months of the sentence.

Coercive control is the way an abusive person, currently or previously an intimate partner, gains and maintains power and control over another person by subjecting them to psychological, physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse, regardless of gender or sexuality.

Detective Garda Darren Carter had revealed family and friends of Ms Crossan, a mother of three, were genuinely fearful for her safety from Mr Dunleavy.

He gave a detailed account of a number of incidents in which the accused threatened and attacked Ms Crossan.

On one occasion he came into the Travellers Inn in Milford and pulled her out by the collar of her jumper and gave her a severe beating, including several punches to the head.

He also burnt her clothes and broke her hair straighteners to prevent her from going out.

The couple had known each other since they were both 14 years old and had been going out since 2012.

In her victim impact statement to court, Ms Crossan said the first four years of the relationship were good and that Dunleavy was a good partner and father.

However, he became possessive and he also began to cheat on her.

During the spate of harassment, Ms Crossan went to stay in a hotel so Dunleavy could not find out where she was.

He telephoned her and threatened her and the recordings of his threats were played in court.

'Mark my words, I'll get you tomorrow night'

In the chilling calls, Dunleavy is heard screaming to Ms Crossan "Ill kill you, I'll kill you stone dead. I'll cut your throat out. I'll get you. Mark my words, I'll get you tomorrow night."

On June 9 last, Gardaí arrested Dunleavy.

However, when being questioned the accused closed his eyes and refused to answer any questions.

Sgt Carter added that he believed that there was a genuine threat that Dunleavy would cause serious harm to Ms Crossan.

He said the accused had a total of 121 previous convictions for various offences including drugs, burglary and also breaching barring orders as well as a raft of traffic offences.

However, barrister for Dunleavy, Mr Peter Nolan asked Sgt Carter if he was aware that Ms Crossan had visited the accused in prison on several occasions and even given him €100.

He also said that he had a "love letter" from Ms Crossan to Mr Dunleavy given to him in prison in which she signed off "I love you, lots of love, your sweetness, Caoimhe."

Sgt Carter said he was not aware of this but suggested this could be a sign of the coercive control which Ms Crossan was experiencing.

Taking to the witness stand, the accused admitted his guilt to the offences and also confessed that he had got involved with another woman during his relationship with Ms Crossan.

“It’s your fault the relationship broke down?,” asked Mr. Nolan.

“Yes,” the accused responded.

He said he had last seen his son in January and had been scheduled to see him on one particular occasion but the date had been changed by Tusla.

Ms Crossan had visited him in prison, he indicated, and had sent him an assortment of clothing items.

'The relationship is over'

But he told the court: “The relationship is over. In my last call to her, I told her I wanted nothing more to do with her.”

Mr Nolan read out details of the Probation and Welfare report on his client and agreed that it was not “very positive” where Mr Dunleavy was concerned.

His client planned to leave Donegal and go to work in Dublin.

Passing sentence, Judge Aylmer said it was clear from the probation report that Dunleavy had a number of difficulties.

However, he added that he has been a model prisoner and that he was using his time in prison well.

He sentenced him to a total of two-and-a-half years but suspended the last nine months of the sentence.

He also ordered Dunleavy to stay off drink and drugs and stay out of Donegal unless for court appearances or to have scheduled access to his son.

He also ordered him to undertake whatever domestic violence courses he was offered while in prison.

    There are several services available to victims of domestic violence in the area
  • Donegal Domestic Violence Service – 1800262677 – www.donegaldomesticviolenceservice.ie
  • Letterkenny Women’s Centre – 074:9124985 – www.lwc.ie
  • LIFELINE Inishowen– 074:9373232 – www.lvds.org
  • Domestic Violence Advocacy Service – 071:9141515 – www.domesticviolence.ie (Sligo/Leitrim)

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