A 47-year-old man who made two Facebook friend requests to a woman in her early 20s and spoke to her about not accepting them was prosecuted for harassing her, but the case was dismissed. This followed a defence submission that there was no evidence of a crime.
Judge Con O’Leary agreed to dismiss the case and said it was a long way from the classic harassment case, where there might be tens if not hundreds of attempts to communicate. The judge dismissed the charge against Declan McCarthy, of 39 Harbour Row, Cobh, Co Cork, at Cork District Court, that he harassed the young woman.
Defence solicitor Próinsias Lyne submitted at the close of the prosecution case against McCarthy: “There is no evidence of a crime being committed. While unpleasant and foolish, it does not meet the threshold.”
Inspector James Hallahan said:
She got a friends request. That was after she made it clear she did not want to be friends with him. He was well aware she did not want a friend request. His manager informed him to stay away from her. It does meet the threshold.
Judge O’Leary said: “I am not sure it comes within the criminal definition. Clearly, he was wrong, it was unpleasant, it was frightening. I am not sure it comes within the criminal definition of harassment, but he has not contacted her in the last one-and-a-half years.”
The judge said that, as he was not sure, the appropriate order was to dismiss. Insp Hallahan asked for an order restraining the defendant from having any contact with the complainant, even in the absence of any conviction, saying it would provide peace of mind.
“She was very upset... She did not want to speak to him. He followed up some phonecalls and turned up at her other place of work. It seems to me he does not take no for an answer.”
Judge O’Leary said that, rather than imposing a restraining order, he would prefer to take an undertaking from the defendant that he would have no further contact with the complainant.
Mr Lyne said the defendant had no problem giving such an undertaking.
Judge O’Leary explained to the defendant: “You have been prosecuted for harassment. I am not sure it came within the criminal definition for harassment.
While you were completely wrong to do it in a social sense, rather than in a criminal sense, I want a promise from you not to contact her in future.
The defendant replied: “I make that promise.” The judge advised him that failure to keep that promise would amount to a contempt of court, for which he could be sent to prison.
Garda Brian Larkin put it that, during an interview as part of the investigation, when McCarthy expressed an interest in the complainant during a conversation with a female colleague closer to his own age, she did not advise him to “go for it”, but instead advised him to back away, because he was too old for her, at about twice her age.
The complainant said she did not accept his friend requests on Facebook and, when she went to put her lunch in the fridge at the work canteen, he was there alone and called her over.
“He told me he wanted to tell me things. He told me to close the door of the canteen,” she said.
She said she was “creeped out” when she saw that all of his Facebook friends were young women. He rang her afterwards and she said she did not want to be friends.
“He said I have very strong feelings for you. I don’t know how much longer I can control it.”
She said she never told him the name of a bar where she worked part-time, but he turned up there. Mr Lyne said the defendant had not threatened her with any harm at any time and had not contacted her in any manner in almost two years. The complainant agreed.