A man who demanded €500 from his Grindr date and said his brothers would “slit” his throat has been ordered to complete community service to avoid a three-year prison term.
Derek Whelan (37) told a man he met on the LGBTI+ dating app that his brothers were "the biggest drug dealers in Darndale", and that they would harm both himself and the complainant if they found out he was gay.
Whelan, of Glin Grove, Coolock, Dublin 17, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making an unwarranted demand with menace, with the intention of making a profit, at Bank of Ireland, Northern Cross, Malahide Rd, Dublin 13 on November, 3 2019.
Garda Laura Reid told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that both men had been exchanging messages on Grindr for some time before they agreed to meet in person.
On the date in question, the complainant travelled to Whelan’s home address, which Whelan had given to him.
The man was “shocked” when an elderly woman - Whelan’s mother - answered the door. He feared that giving the defendant’s real name would reveal his sexual orientation and so said he was looking for “Alex”.
The defendant and injured party later travelled to the latter’s apartment where Whelan began to drink “quite a lot”.
The court heard that Whelan confronted the complainant about knocking on his mother’s door, and said that his brothers would kill him if they found out about his private life.
Whelan suggested that the complainant could take money from an ATM and place it in an envelope addressed to ‘Alex’, to explain his earlier actions at Whelan’s mother’s house. Whelan reasoned that the money could be passed off as a drug debt.
The injured party stated that he only had access to €100 in his account, but Whelan continued to threaten, saying he would send their location to his brothers.
The injured party proceeded to retrieve €100 from a Bank of Ireland ATM in Malahide and gave the money to Whelan in an envelope before the men parted ways.
In the time following the incident, Whelan continuing to message the injured party, demanding the remaining €400. Judge Melanie Greally said these messages were persistent and threatening and the victim decided to go to gardaí.
After his arrest, Whelan admitted to making demands of the victim. He also told gardaí that he “didn’t know” what his sexual orientation was, and that he had used Grindr “on and off” for seven years.
The court heard that in some messages Whelan had told the complaint that he was the “only one” that understood him, referencing his struggles with his sexuality.
Keith Spencer BL, defending, told the court that Whelan struggled with “true feelings” around his sexuality for years, and grew up in a “macho” environment.
Mr Spencer told the court that Whelan's actions were rooted in a "paranoia" triggered by his excessive drinking, and a "direct causal result" of his feelings around his sexuality at the time.
Judge Greally said that Whelan’s struggle with his sexual orientation appeared to be a major trigger to the commission of this crime. She noted that the attitude of his family was less than supportive and hostile.
She noted the Probation Service placed him at a low risk of reoffending and viewed this offending as out of character. Judge Greally noted Whelan was suffering from chronic depression at the time and this was linked to his sexuality.
She said he is now in a stable relationship and has expressed remorse and regret for his actions.
She sentenced Whelan to carry out 240 hours of community service in lieu of a three-year prison sentence.