A POISON pen campaign concluded at Macroom District Court when Judge James McNulty imposed a suspended eight-month sentence on Batt O’Mahony of Woodlands, Newcestown and ordered him to pay €10,000 in compensation to Patrick Healy of Bengour West, Newcestown.
At a previous sitting at Bandon District Court, the defendant had pleaded guilty to a charge under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act that, from 2 July 2008 to 13 November 2013, he had harassed Patrick Healy.
Batt O’Mahony was subsequently remanded in custody at Cork Prison for five days.
The court was told that the defendant wrote anonymous, disparaging letters to both the injured party and to others about Patrick Healy, for over 20 years.
Judge McNulty described the actions of the defendant as being that of an ‘anonymous insidious bully who hides behind the poison pen’ and likened his actions to that of trolls on the internet.
‘I have observed the harm that has been done insidiously and anonymously to Patrick, and how the hate mail diminished and undermined his own self-worth.
‘What the defendant also attempted to do was to diminish Patrick Healy in the eyes of others by writing disparaging letters to third parties about him,’ said Judge McNulty.
The court was also told that Patrick Healy had received letters after funerals and social occasions, telling him not to come again, and his employers also got letters about him which subsequently cost him jobs.
Other examples included an officer from Cork County Council calling to his house over reports that he had buried a horse; as well as a neighbour calling to his house and being under the impression that Patrick Healy had reported him to the gardai for drunken driving.
Patrick Healy became isolated and lost friends over the ‘poison pen’ campaign undertaken by the defendant.
Judge McNulty said it was a day of vindication and liberation for Patrick Healy as the campaign of hate letters had a profound effect on him.
Describing it as ‘badness rather than madness’ after reading a psychiatric report on the defendant, Judge McNulty said: ‘The public disgrace arising from this case is part of the pain when you hurt others.’
Solicitor for Batt O’Mahony, Jack Purcell, told the court that his client has an awareness now, after undergoing counseling, and that there would be no further letters being written.
He was very anxious not to go back to prison, Mr Purcell said.
In sentencing Batt O’Mahony, Judge McNulty took into consideration his early guilty plea, his apology to Patrick Healy, his expression of remorse, and the fact that he made an offer to make amends financially.
‘The Court must mark the gravity of the offence and I am sentencing the defendant to eight months in prison, suspended on condition that the accused keeps the peace and is of good behavior for a period of two years,’ he said.
Judge McNulty also imposed special conditions on the suspended sentence and the defendant must keep peace with Mr Healy for 21 years, must pay him a sum of €10,000 and sign and deliver a letter to Patrick Healy recording his apology and remorse. He must also write and apologise to each of the persons he had previously written to in ‘disparaging terms’ about Patrick Healy.
Recognisances were fixed in the event of an appeal.