Man who harassed RTÉ newsreader Sharon Ní Bheoláin to be sentenced

Conor O’Hora will also be sentenced on Thursday for possessing child pornography

Conor O’Hora (40) of Heather Walk, Portmarnock, Dublin arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photograph:  Collins Courts.

Conor O’Hora (40) of Heather Walk, Portmarnock, Dublin arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

A Dublin man who harassed RTÉ newsreader Sharon Ní­ Bheoláin will be sentenced on Thursday for this and three separate counts of possessing child pornography.

Conor O’Hora (41) of Heather Walk, Portmarnock, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to harassing Ms Ní­Bheoláin between March 27th, 2013 and January 7th, 2014.

He further pleaded guilty to three counts of knowingly possessing child pornography on a mobile phone and on a computer hard drive at Station Road, Portmarnock on February 18th, 2014.

The court heard that the harassment involved posting more than 30 modified photos of Ms Ní­ Bheoláin on a website which was reachable through a Google search of her name.

The pornography charges involved the possession of about 100 images of children involved in sexually explicit activity, and 40 sexually explicit and violent online conversations between O’Hora and a co-accused.

Some of the online discussions related to Ms Ní­ Bheoláin, while others related to three identified children.

O’Hora was remanded in custody overnight pending sentencing and Judge Martin Nolan warned he would certainly face jail for what he termed his “debasing behaviour” and “insidious harassment”.

“I’ve no doubt it caused considerable distress to the complainant and her family. He [O’Hora] must have known that. It was reprehensible and he should be thoroughly ashamed,” said Judge Nolan.

The pornographic images and conversations were “sordid and pretty disgusting,” said the judge.

Det Garda Padraig Hanley told Kerida Naidoo SC, prosecuting, that gardaí­ were alerted after modified images of Ms Ní­ Bheoláin were found online when her name was put into Google.

O’Hora had uploaded 32 images to the website.

The images were active from March 27th, 2013 until the account was closed at the request of gardaí­ on January 17th, 2014.

The court heard they comprised photos of Ms Ní­ Bheoláin’s head taken from newspaper and RTÉ Guide cuttings which were then superimposed on to pornographic images.

O’Hora’s home was searched, his computer and mobile phone were seized and he was arrested.

More than 40 images of explicit child pornography in the most serious category were found on O’Hora’s laptop with a further 53 images on his iPhone, depicting children from the ages of eight to 17.

Many of the pictures were of three identified children and had been taken from Facebook accounts and doctored to form pornographic images.

The court heard the final offence related to 39 online conversations between O’Hora and a co-accused man, via Yahoo private messenger.

Det Garda Hanley said these discussions were “extremely sexually explicit and violent” and included talk of rape, gang rape, sexual assault, torture, threat of extreme sexual violence and murder.

Some of the conversations referred to Ms Ní­ Bheoláin while others referred to the three identified children.

O’Hora co-operated fully with gardaí, gave them his account passwords and voluntarily agreed to be interviewed after the images had been analysed.

He has one minor previous conviction for a road traffic offence.

When Judge Nolan asked why O’Hora had picked on Ms Ní­ Bheoláin, the garda said O’Hora had “no particular malice, just a fixation” towards Ms Ní­ Bheoláin.

‘Really bad fantasies’

Pieter Le Vert, defending, said O’Hora told gardaí­that he didn’t wish Ms Ní­ Bheoláin any harm and that the images and conversations were just “really bad fantasies”.

“It’s not something I’m proud of, it’s a fantasy thing. It’s ridiculous to think she would have any interest in me,” said O’Hora, who added that he had put the images online just so that other people around the world could “get a jolly out of her”.

“I had a seriously sick mind at the time; I got a power trip from looking at little girls’ pictures and it got out of control,” said O’Hora.

He told gardaí­ he had been smoking 12-15 joints of cannabis a day at the time as well as drinking and using cocaine when he could afford it.

Mr Le Vert said his client was now clean of drugs and had engaged in almost 500 hours of group therapy and psychiatric therapy.

He said O’Hora, who had worked previously for Irish Ferries and An Post, was studying with the Open University.

A letter of apology from O’Hora to Ms Ní­ Bheoláin was handed in to the court along with testimonials from his mother, uncle and neighbours.

Mr Le Vert said O’Hora had repeatedly expressed his remorse and had a supportive family who were present in court.

The judge said he accepted that O’Hora was at low risk of re-offending and that he had taken constructive steps to reform himself and “engage with his demons”.

The court heard that the co-accused man received an 18-month suspended sentence earlier this year at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, which is being appealed by the Director of Public Prosecutions for undue leniency.