A woman has been convicted at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of posting ads offering sex on a classifieds website on behalf of two unwitting people.
A jury of nine men and three women returned verdicts of guilty on all four counts of defamation and guilty on two counts of publishing material which was grossly offensive, indecent or obscene following one hour and 53 minutes of deliberations on day three of the trial.
Aishling Madden (aged 34) of Monastery Drive, Clondalkin was accused of putting up posts on behalf of a man and woman on the Gumtree website offering various sexual acts and listing their phone numbers and addresses. The woman told the court she received up to 20 calls from interested parties before the ad was taken down.
Madden had pleaded not guilty to four counts of defamation against Mr David Henry and Ms Louise Vivash at her home between June 17 and 20, 2006. She also denied a further two counts of publishing material which was grossly offensive, indecent or obscene.
Judge Patrick McCartan thanked the jury for their time and effort in fulfilling a very important civic duty. He remanded Madden, who is currently living with her parents, on bail pending sentence at the end of the month.
After the verdict was delivered, Mr Sean Gillane SC, defending Madden, said “there is much beneath the surface of Ms Madden’s background. She is in a regime of particular treatment which is not an easy matter.”
During the trial the court heard that Madden told gardaí four people were in her house on the night the posts were made and they did it as a practical joke. However she said she could not remember any of their names or addresses.
Sergeant Liam Coogan who was attached to the Computer Crime Investigation Unit told Mr Sean Guerin BL, prosecuting, that Ms Madden said in interview that she was working as a temporary receptionist for Accenture in May 2006.
She said she came across Ms Vivash’s CV on the work computer and decided to email it to herself as she thought it was a good example of a receptionist’s CV and she wanted to study it to improve her own CV.
Sgt Coogan said Ms Vivash’s CV appeared alongside the sexual comments and her contact details on the Gumtree website. He said the CV was also found on a hard drive seized from Ms Madden.
Ms Madden told gardaí she had met Mr Henry once when he working for the Office Angels recruitment company. Sgt Coogan said an email between Mr Henry and Ms Madden was also found on her hard drive.
She initially told gardaí she did not know who put the comments concerning Ms Vivash and Mr Henry on the website. She said it was not her and could not have been anyone else. She said she wrote some “rude” comments about Ms Vivash on the website but never “activated” the post.
In a second interview she told gardaí three males and one female were in her house on the night the posts were made and had access to her computer. She said they had found Ms Vivash’s CV and posted it online along with the sexual comments but had not activated the post. She said they did this as a practical joke.
She said one of the group was also responsible for the comments about Mr Henry. She told gardaí she had since forgotten their names and only knew them through meeting them a few times in the city centre.
Mr Mark Gibson, who worked with Gumtree at the time gave evidence of the two messages that were posted on June 18 or 19, 2006.
He said one gave Mr Henry’s phone number and work email, and said he offered various sex acts.
The other message was titled “Diva with a heart of gold” and gave the phone number and email of Ms Vivash. It also offered various sex acts.
Ms Vivash gave evidence that she had been working as a receptionist for Accenture for several years and kept her CV under a password in her work computer. She said she started receiving calls concerning the ad and her daughter then found it online. She said she got 13 to 20 phone calls and five or six emails concerning it.
She said she had never heard of Gumtree before and none of the content of the ad was true.
Mr Henry gave evidence that he had interviewed Ms Madden for temporary office jobs but she was not successful. She said when he told her this she was “not best pleased” and hung up on him. He said he got two emails relating to the ad before he contacted the site and they took it down. None of the content was true.