- 14 Nov 19
A man who sent hundreds of abusive messages to a number of Irish writers and journalists – including Hot Press film editor Roe McDermott – has been jailed.
Brendan Doolin, 37, from Leighlin Road, Crumlin, has been given three years in jail for carrying out a sustained campaign against six women journalists and writers, having harassed them individually and collectively over a number of years. During court proceedings, Doolin was described as a total recluse who never left his home and became an internet troll, according to an RTE report by Vivienne Traynor.
Doolin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to harassing Sarah Griffin, Kate McEvoy, Sinead O'Carroll, Christine Bohan, Roe McDermott and Aoife Barry on dates between May 2012 and February 2018.
As well as being jailed, Brendan Doolin has been banned by the court from contacting the women involved for the rest of his life.
The case laid out how the women were targeted and harassed by Doolin because they were journalists and writers with a strong social media presence, particularly on Twitter. Each of the women received hundreds of emails, usually using the same unusual font, containing insults like "wannabes, nobodies, whiteist, bigots, lefties and pseudo intellectuals."
Among those targeted was Roe McDermott, who is Hot Press' correspondent for film and fashion.
Roe McDermott had replied to the emails sent to her by Doolin, telling him that his contact was unwanted and that if it continued it would amount to harassment. She wrote: "What you do with that information is up to you, but I am making it clear so you don't have the excuse of feigned ignorance."
Her victim impact statement contained a powerful testimony concerning the importance of not being silenced.
"Every single time he sent a nasty message to me," she said in the VIS, "every time he invoked my personal traumas to insult me, every single time he jeopardised my career by messaging my workplace, every time he risked damaging my personal reputation by messaging people in my life, I believe Brendan Doolin was trying to harass me into silence.
"I have not been silenced. I will continue to write, to use my energies to do whatever good I can, and to stand up for what I believe in. But I do not believe that the price of admission for being a writer, for being a public figure, for being a woman with a voice, should be to endure years of relentless abuse and a constant sense of fear."
Roe McDermott also recounted how she had been scared for her safety, highlighting the appalling reality that being harassed in this way is stressful and anxiety-inducing – as indeed it will have been for all of the women involved.
At times, the women felt like they were under surveillance, as Doolin often sent the abusive messages soon after they had written an article, or appeared on television or radio.
Doolin's lawyers said that he viewed himself as someone with no voice and completely insignificant so he developed an alternative persona through his use the internet.
Speaking about the case, Judge Martin Nolan said that "undoubtedly the internet has wonderful advantages", but what the court has heard in this case is "the dark side which allows a man sitting in his house to inflict huge amounts of trauma on six women."
The judge, Vivienne Traynor reported, said that the six women rightly feared they were being stalked on the internet and their feelings were reasonable and understandable. He imposed a five-year sentence, suspending the final two years.
The hope now is that the court ruling will act as an effective deterrent to other internet trolls and stalkers. The licence which has been assumed by toxic keyboard warriors to harass and intimidate individuals – and especially women – on social media and the internet is one of the most disturbing developments in media in recent times. That the Gardaí have shown the the commitment as well as the technical expertise required to bring a serial stalker to justice has to be hugely positive development.
In a statement, issued after the sentence had been handed down, the women made a similar point. It is notable that, despite having been ruthlessly harassed, what they had to say was laced with an element of compassion, which is too often lacking in post-trial statements. "We hope this case shows other men and women in this situation that what they say will be taken seriously if they come forward," they wrote, "and that online harassment is harassment and will be treated as such.
"We hope Brendan Doolin receives the help and rehabilitation he needs. We'd like to thank Detective Garda Colm Gallagher and his colleagues at the Cyber Crime Unit for their painstaking work on, and sensitive approach to, this case."