Man jailed after setting up fake profile to suggest woman offering sexual services

Court heard the 30-year-old had engaged in similar type harassment of the victim five years earlier

A 30-year-old apprentice butcher has been jailed for two years for harassing a young woman by setting up a fake profile offering sexual services and directing men to her house.

It came five years after he engaged in a similar type of harassment of the woman.

Stephen Downey from Lissadell, Maryborough Hill, Cork pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court today to one count of harassing the woman on dates between March 18th and April 8th, 2020, contrary to Section 10 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1998.

Det Garda Aonghus Cotter told how the woman was deeply upset when two men called to her house on separate occasions - one at 1.30am one night and the other at 8.30pm on another evening - after they were directed there for sexual services by a fake profile set up by Downey.

Downey had created a fake profile using images of the woman from her Facebook page as well as images of a sexual nature from other websites to suggest that the woman was offering sexual services and some 20 men responded online but only two turned up at her house.

Downey co-operated fully with gardaí when he was questioned about the offence, said Det Garda Cotter, adding that Downey had six previous convictions including three for sexual assault from 2009 for which he was given a three month suspended sentence at Cork District Court.

He also had three previous convictions for harassment from Cork Circuit Criminal Court in 2015 involving the same woman and the same sort of activity for which he was given a 12 month prison sentence, he added.

Cross-examined by Downey’s barrister, Sinead Behan BL, Det Garda Cotter agreed that Downey presented as somebody who was very immature while he also agreed that Downey’s decision to co-operate with gardai and plead guilty was of assistance to the victim.

Det Garda Cotter said that Downey’s family had also co-operated with gardai and that while they were utterly appalled at his behaviour in committing the offence, they continued to support him in getting counselling and helping him to rehabilitate himself.

Ms Behan pleaded for leniency, pointing out that Downey had entered an early plea and had engaged with a forensic psychiatrist as a result of which he was now gaining an appreciation of the impact his offending had on his victim and he was now deeply remorseful

Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said it was a hugely distressing case for the woman who had been subjected to a similar ordeal at Downey’s hands five years ago and now she found herself targeted again with Downey setting up a false profile which directed men to her door.

The fact that this was a repeat of similar behaviour in 2015 was an aggravating factor in the case and while a structure was put in place then to help Downey rehabilitate himself, he had relapsed and subjected his victim to yet further harassment, he said.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said a probation report put Downey at a moderate to high risk of re-offending and he also seemed to lack any empathy for his victim and that was worrying particularly in light of the fact that this was his second time committing this type of offence against the woman.

“This is a very distressing case of harassment. False profiles set up and males directed to the unfortunate victim. It is most distressing. Her home, her person invaded in a really appalling manner ..... it is invasive and very abusive.

“His level of empathy was almost non-existent. There is a significant amount of work to be done. He did undertake a lot of that but much is left to be done. The victim is entitled to be protected and the severity of this case must merit a prison sentence.”

Judge Ó Donnabháin sentenced Downey to four years in jail but he suspended the two years to take account of his guilty plea for a period of two years and he ordered him to never again have any contact directly or indirectly with the injured party.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times

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