Jail for man who subjected young woman to seventeen months of harassment

A man, who subjected a young woman to a 17-month long campaign of harassment and intimidation during which he stalked her and made numerous offensive remarks, received an 11 month prison sentence with the final five months suspended with strict conditions.

At Galway District Court last week Mayo native Gerard Cunningham (33 ) with an address at Gort Na Bro, Rahoon, pleaded guilty to harassing the young woman on dates unknown between April 1, 2009, and September 5, 2010, contrary to Section 10(1 ) and (6 ) of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. However when Cunningham made claims that it had not been entirely his fault, that there had been a certain amount of “laughing and teasing” between the two leading up to when the offences began, the case was adjourned.

The court heard last week how the injured party first encountered Cunningham in Eyre Square and that he continually harassed her, asking for a blow job and for her to have sex with him. That day Cunningham followed the woman to her college and later through the city centre, constantly walking behind her and laughing menacingly. A month later the woman had been in the Newcastle area when she saw the defendant who then proceeded to follow her through the hospital grounds. On one occasion at Corbett Court Shopping Centre the defendant approached her, put his face into hers, and shouted “rape, rape” before walking off. The harassment and stalking continued with the latest incident occurring in September 2010. On this occasion the young woman and her mother had been in a Dunnes Stores and despite all the other checkouts being free Cunningham stood behind the two women, an act which was clearly for intimidation purposes.

The court also heard that as a result of the harassment and intimidation carried out by the defendant the injured party had “suffered greatly”, had to take medication prescribed by a doctor, and could not sleep.

When the case resumed on Monday Judge Mary Fahy told the young woman: “I”m sorry you had to come in, he [Cunningham] pleaded guilty to harassment and then rowed back. I felt he was not accepting responsibility... he seems to be under the illusion you did something to encourage him.”

Clearly still in fear of Cunningham the 20-year-old who was accompanied in court by her father told Judge Fahy that she had never met the defendant before and that the incidents began when she was just 17. While crying she later explained that she had been prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping tablets “because of him”.

Defence solicitor Ronan Murphy said that his client, who is unemployed, is very apologetic and accepts responsibility. He added that Cunningham has not been near the woman since, has engaged with the probation services, and has attended treatment programmes for his alcohol difficulties which led to bouts of paranoia.

“Any type of harassment is serious... her life was totally over-turned and she found it difficult to sleep. It’s totally unacceptable,” said Judge Fahy before convicting Cunningham and imposing 11 months in jail with the final five months suspended for two years on condition that he enter into a bond of €300 to be of good behaviour, continue to attend the the probation services and alcohol addiction counselling, and stay away from the injured party and her family. Leave to appeal was granted.

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