A SCOTTISH man who caused considerable distress to 10 women after he sent texts and images of a sexually-explicit nature to their mobile phones avoided a jail sentence and has instead been ordered to participate in a sex offender treatment programme.
In sentencing, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Jeff Cheyne, who was living in Schull at the time of his offences, had deeply upset the women impacted by his actions. He said that that a feeling of suspicion hung over everyone prior to Cheyne being tracked down by gardai and that his behaviour had caused considerable upset.
Mr Cheyne, who until recently lived at Loughtea, Ballina, Co Tipperary, but is now residing in Clare, pleaded guilty earlier this year to 13 sample counts of harassment of women on an indictment that contained 41 charges.
Garda Martin Bohane said that the offences occurred on dates between 2014 and 2016 when Mr Cheyne sent text and picture messages of a sexual nature to 10 women in West Cork. The messages were sent on pay-as-you-go phones.
The texts primarily involved picture messages of an erect penis. Five of the ten women who received texts from Mr Cheyne submitted victim impact statements to the court.
The women who received the messages made complaints to gardaí. One woman who received a text from Mr Cheyne was asked if she wanted to see a picture of a man ‘totally naked and standing proud.’
He asked another woman for a ‘naughty photograph’ and he also requested that they meet up. None of the women knew the identity of the person who was ‘sexting’ them.
Garda Bohane said that following a garda investigation, they traced the messages to a pay-as-you-go number credit which was bought in a Tesco store in Limerick. In May of 2016 they got CCTV footage from the shop and identified the buyer as Mr Cheyne, formerly of Schull.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said that Mr Cheyne seemed to have a ‘transitory’ existence. He is originally from the Shetland Islands but moved to Donegal in 2000 and lived for a time in Dingle before moving to Schull. He has moved twice since the offences came to light.
No evidence was given about how he obtained the numbers of the women he was texting or if he knew any of them. The messages first began to be sent out in 2014. There was a lull in 2015, but the messages commenced again.
The court heard that Mr Cheyne was deeply remorseful for his actions. Barrister Ben Shorten said his client was aware of the ‘sheer stupidity of his actions’ and was a man of ‘previously unblemished character.’ Mr Cheyne, he, said had co-operated fully with the garda investigation.
Garda Bohane said that, when questioned about the offences, Mr Cheyne was initially in denial, but then admitted he was responsible and co-operated with them. The 58-year-old, who has worked as a fisherman, is without previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said an aggravating factor in the case was the number and nature of the offending. He said it occurred over a prolonged period of time and caused a great deal of distress to the injured parties.
Factoring in the guilty plea, he jailed Mr Cheyne for two years, but suspended the sentence on the basis that the accused complete a Safer Lives programme for sex offenders, which he started last month.