New law on offensive text messages sees 330 prosecuted

A NEW law against sending lewd and offensive text messages has resulted in more than 300 prosecutions.

Figures published yesterday show 330 prosecutions were brought before Irish courts under the Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951 which falls under the Communications Regulation Act 2007.

The legislation makes it an offence to send by phone any message or other material which is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene and menacing character. It also bans messages sent for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another person.

Some 252 cases were brought before the courts last year, with 78 before the courts already this year.

One of the most high profile cases came to light at Cork District Court in June when a 64-year-old man pleaded guilty to sending sexual texts to a junior cert student.

John Geaney of Ballinahina, White’s Cross, Cork, was ordered to pay €12,000 compensation to the 15-year-old victim, who intends to give it to charity. Judge Patrick J Moran told Geaney that if the money was paid he would impose a two-year suspended jail sentence.

Geaney pleaded guilty to sending four indecent texts to the boy last June and causing annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety to him by persistently making sexually explicit calls.

The teenager was tricked by Geaney into giving him his mobile phone number. Geaney told him he was expecting an important phone call but didn’t know if he could receive it because his phone had gotten wet, so he asked him to ring his number to see if it was working.

Shortly after 10.30pm that night the teenager received the first of a series of texts of a sexual and lewd nature.

In another case, and the first of its kind before an Irish court, Paul Anthony Matthews, 27, was ordered to pay €3,000 after being found guilty of posting offensive messages on Bebo.

Cork teenager Leanne Wolfe took her own life in March 2007 after weeks of sustained bullying — verbal, online and on her mobile phone. It emerged that she had received an abusive text message the day she died from one of six bullies her family say targeted her.

It read: “You whore. On my nan’s soul I swear you would not want to bump into me. I’m coming down. I’m going to break your face. You prostitute.”

The sender — whose identity is known to the Wolfe family — has never been prosecuted.


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