An elderly Kilkenny man who harassed an RTE presenter with semen stained letters has been jailed for two years.
The man has also been ordered to have no contact with the presenter “forever.”
The man appeared before Kilkenny Circuit Court and pleaded guilty to 13 counts on indictment - two of harassment and 11 counts of sending ‘indecent, obscene, grossly offensive or menacing’ items by post contrary to S55 (1) (b) of the Communication Regulation (Postal Services) Act 2011.
Before the court was Anthony Lennon, Knockroe Lane, Ballyragget.
Evidence was also heard he sent “voluminous” emails to the presenter, when printed out covered 220 pages.
Mr Lennon was charged with one count of harassment between November 28, 2016, and August 12, 2019; a second count between November 7, 2019, and November 25, 2019.
The postal offences occurred between July 11, 2019, and November 11, 2019.
Evidence was heard that on July 11, 2019, the presenter became aware that a “suspicious” letter had been received at the RTE studios in Dublin. It was addressed personally to the presenter and seemed to contain “bodily fluid.” It was sent for forensic analysis.
On August 7, 2019, another letter was received at RTE, addressed to the presenter and stained with a “bodily fluid.”
A similar letter arrived on August 8. Gardaí were made aware of another five letters on August 10. All were stained with “bodily fluid.”
Gardaí were able to establish the letters were all sent by Mr Lennon.
Gardaí called to Mr Lennon, cautioned him and told him to refrain from further communication.
The presenter had made contact with gardaí. She wanted Mr Lennon to stop but was in favour of a “graduated response” at that stage.
Mr Lennon acknowledged he sent the letters and said it was an effort to have his music played on RTE.
He said he had already sent another letter. That arrived at RTE on September 10.
On September 19 the presenter became aware that a further letter, addressed to her from Mr Lennon, had been received at her parent’s home in Co. Cork. Three letters were sent to this address and they again appeared to be stained with “bodily fluid.”
The letters were sent for DNA testing at Forensic Science Ireland and it was confirmed the fluid was semen.
After the letters to her parents’ home the presenter decided to make a formal complaint to gardaí.
She had also received a significant number of unwanted emails to her RTE address that amount to 220 printed pages.
The nature of the emails was that Mr Lennon wanted his music played on RTE and also general current affairs.
The presenter told gardaí she received the first email in 2016. The tone was very familiar and he wanted to send her his music. She wanted to be polite and told him to send it to her work office. A tape arrived. She listened to it. She did not work in a music department of RTE and there was nothing she could do.
Mr Lennon sent another email and the presenter replied.
A significant number of emails followed. At the start his emails were “looking for a wife” which the presenter found disquieting. She stopped reading the emails.
Between July and November 2019 13 letters were sent to her at RTE. They were intercepted by security because they “looked suspicious.” The letters were all from Mr Lennon and the presenter did not engage with the letters. They made her feel physically sick. SHe didn’t want this to be happening.
The presenter got concerned when the letters started arriving at her family home and felt she had no choice but to make a statement to gardaí.
On December 2, 2019, gardaí obtained a warrant to search Mr Lennon’s home. A number of items were seized including written notes in a notebook and an envelope addressed to the presenter. He was arrested and taken to Kilkenny Garda Station. His DNA was taken.
Mr Lennon cooperated with gardaí. During interview he said the presenter was not known to him personally but he knew her as a presenter with an interest in music and the arts, and a good looking girl and a ‘country, quiet type person.’
Mr Lennon admitted sending “hundreds” of emails, mostly about Brexit negotiations and the agenda he saw RTE advancing. He said he had strong views. He said his letters contained poetry and lyrics of songs he wished to have published.
Mr Lennon told gardaí he was aware there was an inclusion of semen but thought it was only on three letters.
When asked why he did this Mr Lennon said he was frustrated he was getting no response and wanted to provoke a reaction.
He said he was sorry and he shouldn’t have sent them.
He said he sent letters to the presenter’s family home in Cork to bypass RTE and she might reply.
Mr Lennon told gardaí he was not obsessed with the presenter. A lot of his efforts were to advance hsi work.
He said he was ashamed.
Mr Lennon told gardaí: “I’m awfully sorry this is where it ended up. I should have given up a long time ago. I truly regret it all.”
He also told gardaí: “Can you tell the girl I apologise and am genuinely sorry. It was not my intention to do that, I just took it too far.”
Kevin White, BL, prosecuting, read a victim impact statement from the presenter, who was not in court.
In her statement she said the actions of Mr Lennon had caused considerable stress to her and her family. She said as a ‘minor public figure’ she accepted some level of nuisance but Mr Lennon’s actions went beyond what was reasonable. She said he was a man who needed help but he refused to do that and “persisted with his campaign of disgusting letters.”
The presenter said she had no desire for an elderly man to go to prison on her account but it disturbed her he had already defied instructions not to contact her.
She said she would have preferred not to have had to make a complaint, to save his family the humiliation, but when he contacted her family he took the matter out of her hands. She appealed to him to “leave me and my family in peace.”
The court heard that Mr Lennon is 76 and from a farming background. His wife died several years ago and he found this traumatic. He still very much misses her. His two adult children live in Dublin and New Zealand.
He has the support of close friends.
Mr Lennon’s defence barrister handed a psychiatric report into court and referring to it said his client was found to have difficulty processing emotions and this was compounded by feelings of frustration. Further support for Mr Lennon was needed, the report said. He fully engaged with the assessment and is prepared to undertake recommendations. He does not intend to write to the presenter again.
He had no previous convictions.
Judge James McCourt said Mr Lennon knew what he was doing and he knew it was wrong. “You did harass this woman over a protracted period.”
What aggravated the situation was that Mr Lennon persisted when asked to stop.
“Harassment of this nature is a horrible violation of someone’s personal space,” the judge said.
Judge McCourt said the appropriate sentence for harassment was three years imprisonment, with the final year suspended on condition that Mr Lennon engage fully with the psychiatric and psychological services. If he does that then Mr Lennon will be bound to the peace for two years, on his own bond of €2,000, following his release.
On the 11 postal offences Judge McCourt imposed a one-year sentence on each charge, suspended on the same terms.
Judge McCourt said it was all very well to contact a broadcaster to vent and air one's grievances with their product or output, but to contact one, single person in this way can be seen as an obsession.
Mr Lennon was ordered to have no contact with the presenter or any members of her family, at any time, for any reason whatsoever “forever.”
The judge also directed that Mr Lennon engage with a psychiatrist and follow such further engagements as maybe directed by them.
An application to defer the start of the sentence for 14 days to allow Mr Lennon to get his affairs in order was approved.
Judge McCourt asked that the anonymity of the victim be protected.
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