Limerick man jailed for harassing woman he confused with someone else

A LIMERICK man has been jailed for four years for harassment of a woman he later discovered at trial he had confused with someone else.

Eoin Hannan (49) of Abbeyvale, Corbally was convicted last April of harassment of Ciara Hassett at various locations between February 14 and August 25, 2020.

He denied the charge and the conviction followed a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Last July, he pleaded guilty to a separate charge of harassing Ms Hassett’s father between January 20 and February 13, 2021.

The court heard that Hannan repeatedly contacted the victim despite the fact that in 2017 gardai had warned him that the woman did not welcome his behaviour.

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He was warned again in February 2019 but on Valentines Day 2020 he sent a Valentines card to the woman to her family home where her father lives. The woman was upset because she was worried Hannan would visit the house.

Detective Garda Sarah Barry told the court that over the next eight months Hannan sent wine and chocolates to her workplace. He sent her a watch in June 2020 and later sent her a bracelet.

In August he sent a letter to the family home with a teddy bear and a lollipop. The letter referred to  the victim’s father and included the phrase “one could kill anything except time” which caused her concern.

The same month he came to her workplace and asked to speak to her but security refused him entry.

Gardaí arrested him that month and Hannan said he had been trying to woo the woman, who he said he met in 2013. He said he told her in July 2020 if she texted the word “stop” he would have stopped and expressed outrage that she didn’t have the gumption to stop him and said she was misleading him.

Hannan was charged and released on bail pending prosecution. The following January, he wrote to the victim’s father. On February 13 2021 Hannan then rang Mr Hassett and asked for the victim’s number.

Mr Hassett refused to give it and told Hannan not to ring again. Hannan rang again and left a voice message telling Mr Hassett he wouldn’t contact him again but asked for Ms Hassett’s number.

The court heard that at the trial it was confirmed that Hannan had never met Ms Hassett and had a mistaken impression of who she was and had got her confused with someone else.

In her victim impact statement, the woman said that she had hoped that by ignoring the unsolicited and unwanted contact it would stop. She said the situation was unnerving and exhausting and when she heard of his mental health issues and criminal behaviour, her fears were heightened.

His 44 previous conviction include assault, criminal damage and making a threat to kill.

She said she worried he would show up at her home and she set all her social media to private. She delayed her return to the office after the pandemic due to the “frightening” escalation in the offending in 2021.

She said she found the legal process difficult and exhausting, particularly being  cross-examined by Hannan, who defended himself at trial.

Defending barrister Gareth Casey told the court that his client has significant mental health issues and that it became clear at the trial that Ms Hassett was not the woman he thought she was and that he thought he knew.

He said while the communication was unwelcome and was a direct attack on her peace of mind, it was generally benign. He said his client has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and was likely unwell for most of the time of the offending.

Judge Orla Crowe said she accepted that his mental health issues were at the root of the situation.

She imposed a four-year prison term and directed that he undergo any psychiatric service while in custody and not communicate by any means with the victims or their family home and Ms Hassett’s place of work.