A mother and her son from Cape Clear island off the coast of West Cork have spent a night in custody after being found guilty of harassing another islander over a period of almost two years in what a judge described as a long campaign of “sustained, deliberate, vulgar, and demeaning abuse”.
Skibbereen District Court heard that Helen O’Driscoll, aged 61, of 1 Clerke’s Lane in Skibbereen, and her son Shane, 31, of Lissamona on Cape Clear, began harassing the victim after Ms O’Driscoll’s husband, Fachtna, revealed in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2017 that he had fathered a child with the woman after an affair some years previously.
During a lengthy trial, Judge James McNulty heard that despite admitting paternity of the child to his wife, the family later demanded the woman undergo a DNA test.
The woman also alleged that she had been called names such as slut, whore, and tramp on a number of occasions by Ms O’Driscoll, and that Mr O’Driscoll, skipper of the ferry to the island, had also harassed her on a number of occasions, again on dates between January 1, 2017, and September 1, 2018.
Both Ms O’Driscoll and her son denied the charges of harassment and Ms O’Driscoll denied another charge that she had assaulted the woman in a bar on the island on Halloween night 2017.
The victim told the judge:
It was a full rugby tackle into the counter.
Ms O’Driscoll said she had been collecting drinks for a round, had stumbled in her heels as children ran past, and collided with someone.
In evidence, Fachtna O’Driscoll had said the relationship between him and the woman was limited to a one-night stand, but she claimed it had gone on over different periods both before and after her child was born.
Judge McNulty expressed some sympathy for Ms O’Driscoll in relation to her husband’s “betrayal” but said the court had no hesitation in finding her guilty on both charges.
He said Mr O’Driscoll, who claimed that he was not even on the island when certain incidents were alleged, simply “denies everything”.
The judge said the woman may not have been entirely blameless, but added: “This was deliberate, sustained, and wicked torment.”
He described the “long, sustained, deliberate, vulgar, and demeaning abuse” which made the victim’s life “an absolute misery”, adding: “There are times when I thought I was in the 1950s.”
As for Fachtna O’Driscoll, the judge said: “There is something particularly odious about a man who, when it becomes uncomfortable, abandons his child; in the witness box he acknowledges that abandonment without a hint of shame or any expression of regret.”
Judge McNulty remanded both Ms O’Driscoll and her son in custody overnight in Bantry Garda Station ahead of determining penalty at 2pm today in Bantry district court.
He described the offences as being at the serious end of the scale.