At Ennis Circuit Court, 61-year-old Francis Ryan of Shantraud, Killaloe, pleaded guilty to harassing the woman half his age over a one-month period from December 3, 2014, to January 5, 2015.
The 29-year-old woman had arrived in east Clare from the UK with her daughter leaving domestic abuse behind looking for the simple life and lived without TV or internet.
Counsel for the State, Lorcan Connolly, said the single mother lost the use of her legs for a time and Mr Ryan helped her out and the two were friendly.
However, Mr Connolly said Mr Ryan’s behaviour towards the woman changed after he saw her with a boyfriend. He said that in late December 2014, the woman’s cross-breed terrier dog, Red, went missing.
He said: “The taking of this woman’s dog or ‘dog-napping’ was part of a campaign of harassment.”
Mr Connolly said that Mr Ryan secreted the dog away at kennels over a number of days.
Mr Connolly said that at one stage, Mr Ryan texted his victim to say he knew a man who had her dog and that he could take her to the dog if she wanted.
Mr Connolly said that during the month, Mr Ryan engaged in persistent unwanted phone-calls and communications and persistent unwanted attention of the woman.
Mr Connolly said that Mr Ryan’s actions had made the woman’s life hell. The dog was returned on January 5, 2015. Mr Ryan was convicted of an assault on the woman’s boyfriend later in 2015.
In her victim impact statement, the woman stated she does not feel safe anymore. She said as a result of the harassment she has had CCTV installed at her house.
“I have a new job but I worry about Francis finding out where I am working or doing something to my car or my animals. When I am away from home I worry about coming home and what I might find.”
Counsel for Mr Ryan, Patrick Whyms, said that “until this lady came on the scene and Mr Ryan lost the run of himself a little bit, he managed to get through three-quarters of a life without acquiring any convictions”.
“He is not a criminal in the ordinary sense of the word. Not at all. Undoubtedly his head was turned and he didn’t pick up on signals someone with a wider life experience might have picked up on,” he said.
Mr Whyms said that his client pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
Judge Gerald Keys accepted that there was no risk of repeat behaviour by Mr Ryan and imposed a suspended 12-month jail term on the man.