A 78-year-old man who was sentenced to four months in prison last July for harassment of a female appealed the severity of the sentence at Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court last week.
Jim Gorman, Convent House, Main St, Carrick-on-Shannon pleaded guilty at Carrick-on-Shannon District Court on July 24 last to harassment of a female contrary to Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997. The charge related to harassment at a property at Ard na Sí, Attirory, Carrick-on-Shannon on dates between February 26, 2019 and February 25, 2020.
Counsel for Mr Gorman said he apologised for everything that has happened to his victim, Catherine Martin.
He developed a fetish and an unusual obsession which was “distasteful and shocking” but there was no physical intention or never a desire to make any form of physical contact with her.
Detective Garda Brian McMahon, Carrick-on-Shannon, said that on February 2, 2020, the victim, Catherine Martin, was informed by her neighbours that they had observed the defendant acting suspiciously and had witnessed him entering Ms Martin's property.
She was so concerned by this information as she lives alone with her teenage son that she reported the matter to the gardai and had a CCTV system installed at her property.
On February 25, 2020, while at work, Ms Martin received CCTV footage on her mobile phone that showed the defendant lurking at the rear of her property. He was clearly visible peering through the rear door and windows of her home and exited the property concealing something under his jacket.
On February 26, Gardai executed a search warrant at the defendant's home and a number of exhibits were seized. On the same date, at 4.15pm, Det Gda McMahon arrested the defendant on suspicion of having committed an offence, namely harassment.
He was taken to Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station and interviewed by Det Gda McMahon and Garda Tom Currid on five occasions during the course of the detention and made extensive admissions during the interview.
He gave a detailed account of how he had admired Ms Martin as a person and how his admiration developed into a sexual curiosity. He stated that he had been trespassing on her property for about 12 to 18 months and had entered the curtilage of her property up to 10 times.
The defendant stated that he trespassed in order to rummage through her bins in the search for her most personal items which she had discarded. The defendant also made admissions to photographing Ms Martin from the window of his home when she had been observed in Carrick-on-Shannon town centre.
In the course of searching the defendant's property Gardai discovered a box concealed in his loft containing personal possessions discarded by Ms Martin which he had taken from her bin: a torn copy of her passport that he had reassembled, discarded pyjamas, old footwear, clothing, numerous pieces of underwear, dozens of ladies tights, and other personal private items. The box also contained four newspaper cuttings of photographs taken from the Leitrim Observer that featured Ms Martin.
He said he would wear the items he took from her bins and that he rubbed the items on himself for his sexual gratification and he kept returning to her property to find newer items.
Frank Martin BL, instructed by John McGuinness, solicitor, said Mr Gorman was utterly cooperative with the Gardai during his interview.He said to the Gardai at the end of his interview 'I suppose you think I'm sick in the head' and that he was very sorry for interfering with Ms Martin's peace and privacy and didn't wish to cause her any distress.
“His whole intention was never to be discovered, never to be known to Ms Martin as being on her property, it was secret and surreptitious,” said Mr Martin.
The purpose of his entry to her property was to root in her bin for items which most people would find distasteful, if not disgusting, and take them away and hoard them, he said.
Mr Martin said Mr Gorman was a pillar of the community in Carrick-on-Shannon and was involved in many community and charity groups.
“This has been an appalling fall from grace for him,” he said, “that his undisclosed secret obsession with old underwear came out in public” and he said his business disappeared overnight.
In her victim impact statement which was read out in court, Ms Martin expressed her utter disgust at Mr Gorman searching her bins for her most personal items and said he defiled the sanctuary of her home and persona as a female.
She said the matter has left her distraught, nervous and feeling extremely vulnerable and she hopes no other woman or family “will suffer the anxiety, trauma, distress or disgust we have endured and continue to experience as a result of this predatory harassment.”
Jim Gorman read out a letter of apology to his victim in which he said he was extremely sorry for what he had done.
“There are no words to say how sorry I am for all the stress and grief I have caused you and your family because of my foolish, unforgivable and disgusting behaviour,” he said.
He added that his actions were “totally unacceptable” and he was so ashamed of his behaviour and took full responsibility for what he had done. He said he never meant to cause her any harm or distress.
Mr Gorman said he immediately sought professional help and is currently working with a specialist psychotherapist in Dublin on a weekly basis to work through and resolve his behavioural issues. He will continue with this therapy for as long as it takes.
“You have my complete assurance this will never ever happen again to you or to anyone else,” he told her directly.
Mr Martin handed in two character references on behalf of Mr Gorman from Sean O'Boyle, a senior civil servant known to him for many years, and Mr Cox, a retired lecturer and engineer who was a neighbour of his and has known him all his life.
A detailed report was also obtained from Dr Patrick Randall, a consultant clinical and forensic psychologist, who Mr Gorman has attended on four occasions.
The report set out the background and Mr Gorman's personal history. Mr Gorman's father was a draper in Carrick-on-Shannon and he recalled as a child feeling female undergarments stocked in the shop at the time as comforting and as an adolescent he found them sexually stimulating.
He was sexually abused as an adolescent by an Englishman who had come to stay with the family.
The report said he recognised the impact of his offending behaviour and a longstanding difficulty of arousal by women's underwear.
It found his general IQ was in the low average range. He experiences low moods, poor concentration and despondency. He is acutely vulnerable to stress and is anxious. He is vulnerable to bizarre preoccupations and obsessions which border on the delusional.
With regard to the offence, the report stated Mr Gorman didn't know why he gravitated to Ms Martin and didn't mean her or her son any harm. He had a positive view towards her and respected her. He knows his behaviour was illegal and morally wrong but felt compelled to do it.
The assessment in the report found his behaviour was “not sexually assaultive.” He has had ongoing difficulty with fetishistic behaviour but the risk of future offence is regarded as low.
It recommended he engage with individual therapy to address his sexual preoccupation.
There was also a letter from Dr Eimir McGrath, treating psychotherapist, with whom he attends weekly treatment sessions since last March. He will be attending counselling for the foreseeable future and it should prevent a resurgence of his “rather revolting fetish,” the court heard.
Mr Martin said Mr Gorman realised the victim had to put CCTV security equipment in place on her property and he offered €5,000 to compensate her for the costs involved.
Judge John Aylmer remarked that, from the point of view of the victim, Catherine Martin, this is “a grotesque offence and an appalling invasion of her privacy and of her sense of safety and security in her own home.”
He said it was easy for any right-minded person to empathise with her. He said he had no doubt she regarded the offence as an extremely grave matter, as did the court.
Judge Aylmer noted the maximum sentence available in the District Court on summary prosecution is 12 months imprisonment and or a fine of £1,500.
He said it was difficult to argue with the District Court Judge's assessment who must have identified a six month sentence with a one third discount for the plea.
He said, however, he would view it more seriously and at a starting point of 9 months or even 12 months “because it's difficult to think of a more grave case of harassment prosecuted summarily.”
Judge Aylmer said he must look at the mitigating circumstances, that Mr Gorman put his hands up at the outset admitting this “grotesque perversion” which he was suffering from his childhood.
He said it appears he was otherwise highly regarded as a pillar of the community. He admitted his addiction and cooperated fully with the investigation. Judge Aylmer accepted his apology was genuine and heartfelt and he displayed an obvious empathy to his victim.
Judge Aylmer said, regrettably, the District Court Judge did not have the benefit of the report from Dr Randall when dealing with the matter which put in forensic terms the case they are dealing with.
“It seems Mr Gorman has a good understanding of his problem and what he needs to do about it,” he said.
He has already attended counselling and is willing to continue with that. The risk of future offending is low so long as he continues to engage in therapy in an open and honest manner.
Judge Aylmer said notwithstanding that fact, he would have taken a more serious view than the learned District Court Judge did and would have been thinking of a longer sentence.
With the benefit of the reports and all the other mitigating factors it seemed to him that prison for a first time offender of such mature years would serve very little of what is required. He said he would leave the sentence as identified in the District Court.
He adjourned the case for 12 months and indicated that if he hears in 12 months time that Dr McGrath can provide a positive report that she has successfully engaged with Mr Gorman, on that occasion he will impose a sentence of 4 months but will suspend it for 12 months on his entering a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of 12 months.
He made the same order as the District Court Judge on the restrictions imposed on Mr Gorman but made a variation by increasing the period from two years to five years.
These restrictions are that Mr Gorman not communicate with the victim or her son; not go within 2km of her or her place of employment; and not enter Ard na Sí estate when attending his daughter's house unless there is a third party present.
Noel Farrell, Co Leitrim State Solicitor, appeared on behalf of the State.