Detective garda found guilty of harassing State solicitor
Eve Doherty falsely accused Elizabeth Howlin of corruption
Det Sgt Eve Doherty: the Dublin-based detective was found guilty of harassing Elizabeth Howlin, a division head at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Photograph: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie
A Garda detective has been found guilty of harassing a State solicitor by sending her abusive letters and emails.
Eve Doherty (49), a detective sergeant based in Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to harassing Elizabeth Howlin between September 2011 and March 2013. She also denied claiming in March 2012 that Ms Howlin was perverting the course of justice.
At the time Ms Howlin was a directing officer for the Director of Public Prosecutions, involved in deciding whether to bring prosecutions in criminal cases. Letters and emails were sent to Ms Howlin’s home, her place of work and her GP calling her a “corrupt bitch”, an “incompetent useless hobbit” and a “two-faced bitch”.
Ms Howlin, who now heads the DPP’s directing division, said she found the material very upsetting and distressing and an invasion of her privacy.
The material, which included A4 flyers left on cars around the estate where Ms Howlin lived, in Blackrock, Co Dublin, falsely claimed that she was a political appointee and would remove files to prevent the prosecution of anyone connected to her or the Government. Ms Howlin is a distant cousin of the leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin, who was minister for public expenditure and reform at the time of the harassment.
Sgt Doherty, whom the court heard was in a relationship with Ms Howlin’s ex-husband, had denied being the author of any of the material, which included anonymous emails containing similar allegations. She admitted sending one related email from the internet cafe that the other emails were sent from. She had been wearing a wig and dark sunglasses at the time.
After just over three hours of deliberations following a 15-day trial, a jury of five men and six women found the sergeant guilty of the first charge of harassing Ms Howlin but not guilty of claiming Ms Howlin was perverting the course of justice.
Judge Melanie Greally remanded Sgt Doherty on continuing bail until October 27th, when she will be sentenced. She also said there should be no social-media posts about any person or matters connected to the proceedings.
The court heard Ms Howlin did not know Sgt Doherty until this trial and that Sgt Doherty was then in a relationship with the victim’s ex-partner.
Emails were sent from an internet cafe in Dublin city centre to more than 700 recipients using five anonymous email accounts. The five accounts, one of which Sgt Doherty accepted she had used, had hundreds of recipients in common. When gardaí compared the emails with documents found in Sgt Doherty’s home and work locker, they found multiple examples of 60 common features, such as grammatical errors.
Some of the material falsely named neighbours of Ms Howlin as drug dealers and falsely claimed Ms Howlin had interfered in their prosecution.
Kerida Naidoo SC, prosecuting, said the author either knew the truth and chose to misrepresent it or knew something about a drug conviction of a member of the neighbouring family but didn’t bother to establish the full truth.
Sgt Doherty’s barrister, Michael O’Higgins SC, said that she had previously made protected disclosures about issues at work and that the emails were sent to “ventilate the issues”, not to harass anyone. Mr Naidoo said this was not the conduct of a whistleblower but the “cowardly conduct of someone prepared to defame innocent people”.
He said some of the material contained personal details that only a very small group of people had access to, such as the comings and goings of Ms Howlin and her family. This was at a time, he added, when Sgt Doherty was in a relationship with Ms Howlin’s ex-husband. “Whoever wrote these documents had a source of info about Liz Howlin very close to her.” Her relationship with Ms Howlin’s former husband also provided a motive of jealously for Sgt Doherty, he said.