A Ballyroan woman who sent malicious or obscene letters and Christmas cards to family members, in one instance faking a relative’s signature in an attempt to stop homecare services for an 87-year-old woman, has been given a suspended sentence.
At yesterday's (Thursday, July 19) sitting of Portlaoise District Court, Eilish Hennessy (63), Pinehurst Lodge, Chapel Street, Ballyroan, was charged with offences under section 55 (b) of the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Act 2011.
When the case first came before the court in April, Garda Conor Egan gave evidence that around Christmas of 2016, the injured parties in the case received cards and letters from the accused which were obscene, with images of male genitalia on them.
All the injured parties were relations of the accused, except one who employed her daughter.
Garda Egan said one particular card was very malicious and had been sent to a grieving mother.
Three of the injured parties were in court in April to give evidence.
Ms Margaret Conroy, a first cousin of the accused, told the court that she had buried her sister that Christmas when she received the letter from the accused.
Ms Conroy said her mother had been in shock that someone who claimed to be her best friend could do this.
Judge Catherine Staines asked what was behind the incident, to which Ms Conroy replied: “Envy, jealousy, bitterness. I’m ashamed to say she’s a first cousin of mine.”
Ms Laura Bergin, a cousin of the accused, gave evidence that their families hadn’t been speaking for a number of years, but the accused had attended the witness’ cousin’s funeral.
The witness said she received a Christmas card which upset her a lot.
And a third witness, a Ms Bergin, gave evidence that she got a call from her grandmother asking her why she wanted to cancel her grandmother’s services.
Ms Bergin said her grandmother had been fighting two years to get these services, but a handwritten letter supposedly signed by the witness was asking for the services to be cancelled. The letter also claimed that the witness was getting a carer’s allowance to look after her grandmother, but all of this was false.
Ms Bergin also said that a letter purportedly signed by her had been submitted asking to cancel her grandmother’s ESB discount for her phone bill.
Ms Bergin said she reported this to the gardaí, as she couldn’t figure out who was trying to be her. She said that her grandmother also received an offensive card at Christmas and the family could not understand why somebody would do this.
Ms Bergin said that from September to December of that year, her grandmother did not know who to let into her house as she did not know who to trust.
Defence said that the accused, a 63-year-old grandmother, had no previous convictions and suffered with serious health issues. Defence said that the accused was undergoing serious cancer treatment and asked that the case be adjourned to get medical reports.
The accused also had letters of apology.
Judge Staines said she was glad the witnesses had given their evidence and agreed to adjourn the matter to deal with penalty on the next date.
The matter was put back to July 19 for a probation report.
When the case returned to court yesterday, Judge Staines said it was an extremely disturbing case, with grossly offensive material sent to the victims which had been extremely upsetting.
Judge Staines said it meritted a prison sentence, however she took into account the fact that at the accused’s age she had no previous convictions and had pleaded guilty. The judge also noted that the accused was suffering with an advanced stage of cancer.
The accused was sentenced to six months’ prison, suspended for two years on condition she have no contact with the injured parties.