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MSD employee denies harassing her colleague over her ‘past life'

August 12th, 2018 10:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

The MSD plant at Brinny. Although the case involves two employees, MSD has no involvement in it. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

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A DISTRICT Court Judge has adjourned a case of alleged harassment involving two staff at MSD in Brinny near Innishannon.

Barrister Shane O’Callaghan, instructed by solicitor Myra Dinneen, appeared for Deirdre Cronin of 8 Kilmoney Woods, Carrigaline who is accused of harassing Jacqueline Peilow at MSD Brinny in March 2017, contrary to Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997.

At an earlier sitting of Clonakilty District Court Jacqueline Peilow told the court that on March 21st 2017, she was at work at MSD Brinny and found a sheet of paper on her keyboard.

‘I was horrified as it was a print-out from my past life and I looked around and no one saw anyone at my desk. I then rang my manager and he said to email it up to him,’ she added.

‘I was really shocked as it was a copy of a newspaper cutting in respect of something I was involved in years ago. I’m not proud of it and I paid my price and I turned my life around and I’m respected at work.’

Jacqueline told the court she had no idea why someone would do it and on March 23rd  HR manager Peter Kelly told her more print-outs had been found in the toilets. On April 19th envelopes were also delivered to the plant, containing different cuttings and a typed letter.

‘I was terrified and scared to go to work as I didn’t know what was facing me. My employers knew of my past and I wasn’t hiding that from them,’ she told Judge Mary Dorgan.

Jacqueline said she eventually went to gardaí to make a complaint and she gave gardaí several names of people it might have been.

Peter Kelly said it was reported to him by a colleague that photocopies of a newspaper article were put in the changing room and the cleaning staff gave them to him.

‘I met Jacqueline and told her and she wasn’t aware of it and she became very upset and started crying. She suspected a few names and one of them was Deirdre Cronin,’ said Mr Kelly.

He said both women worked in the same office doing similar jobs.

Mr Kelly said that on April 19th five or six envelopes were posted to the plant site addressed to different people and he was made aware of this and showed the contents of one to Jacqueline.

‘In the envelope there was a cover letter accompanying a newspaper article and the written English in the letter was not great and it looked a bit off,’ said Mr Kelly.

Security officer Peter Cotter gave evidence that he was at work on April 19th  when the post arrived, which included several envelopes with one addressed to security.

‘We were expecting SIPTU letters so I opened this envelope and then saw paper clippings and a letter. We rang Margaret McGuinn, a manager and she came down and took them away,’ he said.

Garda Manus O’Donnell of Bandon said he contacted An Post and found the stamps were bought at Crossbarry Post Office on April 13th. He examined CCTV from there which showed a blonde woman buying stamps at the counter. ‘I then got a confirmation on May 26th that the stamps were bought at 15.59pm on April 13th,’ said Gda O’Donnell.

He said he then called to Deirdre Cronin and cautioned her about an alleged harassment of a colleague.

On June 14th last year Ms Cronin met Gda O’Donnell by appointment where he arrested her under Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. 

‘The first five digits on a stamp are unique to each Post Office and this identifier code meant they were bought at Crossbarry Post Office. An Post confirmed that the stamps on the envelopes were from there and were bought at 15.59pm on April 13th and paid for by cash there,’ he said.

CCTV footage from Crossbary Post Office was then shown in court from the day in question which showed her silver Ford Focus there.

Mr O’Callaghan said his client accepts she was the owner of the car and that she was in that Post Office that day to the best of her ability.

When interviewed by Gda O’Donnell at Bandon Garda Station on June 14th the accused said she works at MSD Brinny but denied putting the photocopies on Jacqueline’s desk. 

She did admit she had Googled the article about her.

‘I paid for the article by credit card as I was curious as I heard people make comments about it. I printed one article and I was going to highlight it to my manager,’ she said in a statement.

When he asked the accused if she had a grievance with Deirdre Cronin, she replied ‘no comment.’

Gda O’Donnell then put it to her that she deliberately researched an incident involving Jacqueline from 14 years ago and left copies of it around the workplace.

‘When it didn’t get the reaction you had hoped for you posted seven envelopes containing a letter and copies of the article to staff.’ Deirdre Cronin made no comment .

Mr O’Callaghan said that CCTV from the post office showed that the seven envelopes were posted on April 13th but they didn’t arrive in MSD until April 19th.

‘They couldn’t have possibly been posted as they would have been there since the 14th or 15th,’ said Mr O’Callaghan.

Gda O’Donnell said that this occurred around Easter and with Good Friday on the 14th and the bank holiday weekend it may have taken longer to arrive, which Judge Dorgan agreed was possible.

Mr O’Callaghan also argued that his client’s timesheets show that she clocked in at work at 8.59am on March 22nd, which was after the articles were discovered in the toilets.

‘She couldn’t have placed them there as she left the previous day at 17.05pm and the toilets were cleaned at 6.30am so how could they be there at 8am?’ asked Mr O’Callaghan.

Mr O’Callaghan then made an application to the court for the case to be dismissed. He said Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act states  the harassment be ‘persistent.’

At a later sitting, held recently in Macroom, Insp Pat Meany called Deirdre Cronin to give evidence. In respect of the allegation that Deirdre Cronin placed an article on Ms Peilow’s desk – the accused said it was a Tuesday morning and that she had gone directly to a meeting with Donal Dennehy. She said that meeting would have taken a full two hours and that the article was found during that timeframe.

When asked about the placing of photocopies of the same article in the ladies’ and gents’ toilets, the accused said: ‘I was never in the gents’ toilets.’

The accused was asked about being seen on CCTV buying stamps at Crossbarry Post Office – stamps that later turned up on envelopes containing the aforementioned article to members of MSD – and she agreed that it was her in the CCTV footage.

She told the court that she had placed the stamps in a small make-up bag she had purchased containing Lancôme products and the bag, and its contents, had gone missing from her desk. 

Deirdre Cronin told the court she is involved with a barbershop singing organisation and that she often has large brown envelopes, which she uses for posting out sheet music.She made the point that the CCTV footage showed: ‘Whatever I had in my hand, I left with.’

When asked by Insp Meany if she had reported the loss of the make-up bag to security, the accused said she didn’t but she had mentioned it to several of her work colleagues.

Deirdre Cronin admitted that she had heard ‘gossip and talk’ at work about Ms Peilow. 

She said: ‘People were saying she had a criminal conviction.’ 

Deirdre Cronin said she had been ‘nosey’ to read the article. But she claimed the archive payment had nothing to do with accessing the article because the article was, and still is, there online for everyone to see.

When asked about her relationship with Ms Peilow, Deirdre Cronin said that when she joined the company in November or December of 2016, Ms Peilow had handed the work over to her. 

Apart from that, she said they never saw each other because they would have been at different meetings.

‘I gave her a tin of biscuits at Christmas and thanked her for the hand-over. She was a work colleague,’ said Ms Cronin, who denied ever having any conflict with her.  ‘I didn’t put the article on her desk,’ she said. ‘I am saying 100% under oath that I didn’t place the article on her desk.’ 

Genevie Cronin, no relation, also gave evidence that Deirdre Cronin had mentioned to her the fact that her Lancôme bag had gone missing. 

And Mary O’Donoghue, a friend of 20 years, said: ‘Deirdre Cronin not only has a good heart but a big heart … she looks out for people and helps them.’ 

She, too, said she remembered her friend searching for her missing Lancôme bag.

The case was adjourned without any date being set as yet for the next hearing.

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