Bulk of content in Garda emails amounted to ‘a crank’s charter’

Jury in trial of detective garda Eve Doherty accused of harassment likely to begin deliberations on Monday

Eve Doherty (49), a Dublin based garda, leaves the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Friday where she has  pleaded not guilty to the harassment of Elizabeth Howlin, who worked in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Photograph:  Collins Courts.

Eve Doherty (49), a Dublin based garda, leaves the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Friday where she has pleaded not guilty to the harassment of Elizabeth Howlin, who worked in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

Lawyers for a detective accused of harassing a solicitor by sending letters and emails have told a jury that the bulk of what was sent amounted to “freedom of expression”.

Eve Doherty (49), a detective sergeant based in Dublin, denies harassing Elizabeth Howlin between September 2011 and March 2013 and making false statements on two dates in March 2013 claiming Ms Howlin was perverting the course of justice.

At the time Ms Howlin worked with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) where she was involved in deciding whether or not to direct prosecutions in criminal cases.

Over an 18 month period letters and emails were sent to Ms Howlin’s home, her place of work and to her GP calling her a “corrupt bitch” and an “incompetent useless hobbit”.

The material, which included A4 posters left around her housing estate, falsely claimed that Ms Howlin was a political appointee and that she would “pull” files to prevent the prosecution of anyone connected to her or the Government. Ms Howlin is a distant cousin of the TD Brendan Howlin.

The trial has run for 14 days and the jury is likely to begin deliberations on Monday.

Closing the defence case Michael O’Higgins SC told the jurors that they had to establish, beyond reasonable doubt, three things: that Sgt Doherty wrote the letters, emails and posters, that it amounted to communicating or harassment, and that it was done with the intention to interfere with her peace of mind or privacy.

Sgt Doherty has admitted that she was in the Wired internet cafe wearing sunglasses and a wig on September 29, 2013 and she sent an email from a Hushmail email account.

Mr O’Higgins said that Sgt Doherty’s position was she did not write the original document sent. He said the email was calling for an external public investigation into matters in the gardaí.

He told the jury that Sgt Doherty had made protected disclosures arising out of certain matters in work. He said that it was not an easy thing to speak out like this and experience has shown that those that do don’t fare very well.

He said that the bulk of the content in the emails sent amounted to “a crank’s charter” but that it was sent with the intention of ventilating the issues, not to harass anyone.

“People have a right to express unreasonable views, if they are genuinely held,” he said. He added that this didn’t mean people could ventilate whatever they wanted to say without recourse because there were libel laws if you defamed somebody.

He said the prosecution must prove that if Sgt Doherty did send the letters and emails that she did so with the intention to interfere with Ms Howlin’s peace or privacy.

Kerida Naidoo SC, prosecuting, told the jury that they could take all the circumstantial evidence as a whole and rely on it to conclude that the defendant was guilty.

He told them that the fact that all the emails were sent from the same cafe and had a huge number of common recipients pointed to them all being sent by the same person. As Sgt Doherty admits sending one of these, therefore she sent them all, he said.

He said the material sent was not the conduct of a whistleblower but was the “cowardly conduct of someone prepared to defame innocent people”.

He said that some of the material sent contained personal details that only a very small pool of people had access to. This included details about the comings and goings of Ms Howlin and her family, at a time when the accused was in a relationship with the ex-husband of Ms Howlin.

“Whoever wrote these docs had a source of info about Liz Howlin very close to her,” counsel said.

He said this relationship with Ms Howlin’s ex-husband also provided a motive of jealously for Sgt Doherty.

He said that whoever sent the letters wanted to hurt, embarrass and distress Ms Howlin. He said that jealousy can turn into an irrational obsession with another person and that this was the mindset of the person who wrote the letters and posters.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally.