Landlord jailed for ‘campaign of intimidation and terror’ against former tenant

Thomas Armstrong (46) of Addison Avenue, Glasnevin, Dublin pleaded guiltyto harassment of Lorna McAuley
Landlord jailed for ‘campaign of intimidation and terror’ against former tenant

By Sonya McLean and Jessica Magee

A landlord who harassed his former tenant “to breaking point” after their tenancy agreement ended on poor terms has been sentenced to two years in jail with the final 16 months suspended.

Thomas Armstrong (46) of Addison Avenue, Glasnevin, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to harassment of Lorna McAuley on dates between August 2016 and August 2018.

The court heard that a dispute arose when Armstrong said he wanted to move back into the apartment and claimed Ms McAuley owed him for rent and damage. He then began “a campaign of intimidation and terror” against her.

Passing sentence on Thursday, Judge Melanie Greally said the calculated and long nature of the offending in multiple forms represented an “extreme violation” of Ms McAuley’s privacy and peace of mind.

Garda Darren Farrell told Monika Leech BL, prosecuting, that the harassment took three forms, including anonymous complaints to Dublin City Council in relation to Ms McAuley’s parent’s roof garden.

Armstrong, a Mayo native, also created a Twitter account in Ms McAuley’s name on which he posted photos of her and bogus tweets, and lastly that he advertised tickets for the 2016 All Ireland Final on DoneDeal, listing Ms McAuley’s phone number.

Campaign of harassment

Judge Greally said further aggravating factors of Armstrong’s “campaign of harassment” included his “dishonest” communications with Dublin City Council and the anguish he caused Ms McAuley by involving her elderly parents in his intimidation.

Judge Greally set a headline sentence of 40 months, but gave Armstrong credit for his guilty plea, his absence of previous or subsequent convictions, his expressions of remorse, his low risk of reoffending and the numerous excellent character references speaking highly of his personal qualities.

The court heard Armstrong brought the sum of €4,000 to court as a gesture of remorse to help defray Ms McAuley’s medical and legal costs, but that she refused to accept this.

Judge Greally directed that the money be given to Pieta House and agreed to allow Armstrong 10 days before taking up his sentence to get his affairs in order.

He is due to present himself at Store Street Garda Station on June 15th at 9am to begin his eight-month jail sentence.

Armstrong was ordered not to communicate with Ms McAuley by any means for 40 years or to approach within 500 metres of her home or place of work.

Breaking point

Ms McAuley took the stand to read her own victim impact statement earlier this week. She said would “never in her wildest dreams” have thought of herself as a victim before this ordeal which she said had brought her “to breaking point”.

She said she would never forgive Armstrong and that his behaviour had caused her “shame, stress, anxiety, terror and hurt,” destroyed her peace of mind, and impacted on her physical and mental health.

“I rue the day we rented a house from him,” she continued.

She explained that a dispute arose when Armstrong said he wanted to move back into the apartment and claimed she owed him for rent and damage.

She said what followed from him was “a campaign of intimidation and terror” and that she was inundated with calls and text messages.

Ms McAuley said Armstrong posted photos of her on the fake Twitter account he set up in her name and identified where she lived and worked.

“He attempted to destroy my reputation by posting outlandish remarks. I felt violated, and I am quite a private person. I found it extremely hurtful and distressing that someone could share photos of me all of which I had not consented to,” Ms McAuley said.

Mental health

“I value my privacy above all else. With the click of a button, he took this from me. The Twitter account was only deleted this April and I only became aware of it when he emailed me a link to it from a bogus account,” Ms McAuley explained.

She said she suffers from chronic pain and distress and her sleep was severely impacted, explaining that the harassment was the first thing she thought about in the morning and the last thing at night.

“It took a toll on my mental health. I had to get counselling. I have never in my entire life felt more vulnerable or intimidated than when I was under attack from Mr Armstrong.”

“I no longer feel safe as a result of his actions. I feel that I will always have to look over my shoulder. I will always be fearful of him,” Ms McAuley said, as she asked Judge Melanie Greally to order Armstrong not to contact her.

“It’s my opinion that he stalked me, caused me stress and anxiety in the real world and the virtual world and I will never forgive him for what he put my family and me through,” Ms McAuley concluded.

“If he could take back what he did, he would. There was a disagreement as to how the dispute arose – it initially arose from a rental dispute,” Ms Smith said.

She added that while that does not excuse his behaviour, he also had an alcohol problem at the time which he has since dealt with.

“This explains his skewered thinking at the time which led him down this rabbit hole,” counsel suggested.

Ms Smith said her client was willing to do community service and asked the court to accept that he is a different person to the one he was five years ago.

Judge Melanie Greally said she found it hard to accept the defence application that Armstrong was suffering from alcoholism at this time.

She commented that having read the testimonials from Armstrong’s friends, family and colleagues, “one would not think one was reading about the same person. There are evidently two sides to Mr Armstrong.”

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