Cork autism campaigner was verbally abused by Scientology employee, court findsCork autism campaigner was verbally abused by Scientology employee, court finds

Irish Examiner/December 12, 2019

By Noel Baker

An employee of the Church of Scientology in Dublin has been sentenced to prison for verbally abusing an autism campaigner in the course of a phone call, with the judge saying he could suspend the sentence if the Church agrees to pay an autism charity €10,000.

Nathan Moore, 22, with an address at 1 Allenton Park in Tallaght, Dublin, had denied the charge under Section 13 (1) (a) and section 13 (2) (a) of the Post Office (Amendments) Act 1951, relating to the alleged call made on December 4, 2017.

The recipient of that call, Fiona O’Leary, recorded the exchange, in which Mr Moore identified himself and called Ms O’Leary a “spastic geebag” and said he would “box her up and down”.

At Bantry District Court Judge James McNulty heard that Ms O’Leary had first contacted the centre in Firhouse in Tallaght and gave the name Chloe Smith, as she had been concerned about Scientology involvement in an upcoming funfair and wanted to find out more.

She had been given Mr Moore’s name by a third party and spoke with him for 20 minutes.

In court Mr Moore said he felt the call had felt “more like an interrogation” but he had been polite and he told his supervisors afterwards. He said he was informed that he had been speaking to someone who was not who they said they were.

He admitted then calling Ms O’Leary back from the mobile phone of a colleague and while he was still in the Scientology centre in Tallaght. The call was recorded by Ms O’Leary, who was at home in West Cork and who said she campaigns against what she described as “quack treatments”.

Ms O’Leary, becoming emotional, said the incident had frightened her and made her apprehensive about leaving her house.

Mr Moore was 20 at the time and had only been working at the centre for a month. He said he has now graduated to being in charge of the cafe at the centre and told the judge he instantly regretted what he had said in the call but that he had lost his temper. He said it was an empty threat and he had no intention of doing anything to Ms O’Leary and that the words used were not uncommon where he came from. He said he had made a complaint to Gardaí in Rathfarnham about the incident before Ms O’Leary had made her own complaint to Gardaí in Bantry.

Ms O’Leary alleged she received a string of more abusive calls in the days following the exchange with Mr Moore, some referring to her children, two of whom have autism, but said she did not know for sure who had made them. Mr Moore denied any involvement in any later calls and said the calls could have come from anyone else who had been using the same phone. He also told the judge he had received a death threat following the exchange and that his personal details had been put up on social media.

Garda Joe O’Donnell gave evidence of taking the statement from Ms O’Leary and of requesting the statement from Mr Moore. Gardaí told the court they were not sure when the statement from the defendant was made as Garda O’Donnell only received it a year later. The Garda also told of identifying the numbers used in the offending call and later calls to Ms O’Leary.

Judge McNulty said he was satisfied the case was proven and convicted Mr Moore, who was described in court by the judge as a member and employee of the Church. Members of the Church were present in court to support Mr Moore, his solicitor, Diarmuid Kelleher, told the judge. The solicitor also said his client was from a working-class area, had left school early and had not had the maturity at the time to respond to what he had earlier claimed was “entrapment” and “goading” on the part of Ms O’Leary.

Judge McNulty said when such incidents occurred involving religious groups and churches, it represented a betrayal of trust and an abuse of power. He referred to Mr Moore as an immature young man who had been unsupervised and said the Church of Scientology had a duty of care to him.

Regarding the specific offence he said the betrayal of trust and abuse of power, on the overall scale, may not have been the worst, “but for Fiona O’Leary, it was the worst”.

“It impacted her, her partner, and to some extent, her children.”

He said the matter was too serious to be dealt with by either fine or community service and said the appropriate sentence was 90 days in prison. He said he would consider suspending the sentence if Mr Moore kept the peace for two years and if the Church of Scientology gave an assurance it would pay €10,000 to the Irish Society for Autism to assist it in its work. He asked that the payment be made in the next seven days.

In court Diarmuid Kelleher submitted that his client had no previous convictions, was on minimum wage, had repeatedly travelled to court and was happy to adhere to the condition to keep the peace, but argued that the second part - the contribution by the Church of €10,000 - was outside the court’s jurisdiction as it involves a third party not before the court and over whom his client had no control.

The judge said he would put a stay of 14 days on the execution of any committal warrant, until December 26, and that the prison sentence handed down was to mark the court’s “deep disapproval” of what had occurred. He said for the sentence to be suspended Mr Moore could enter into a bond of €100 to keep the peace for two years and that his current employer make the contribution of €10,000 within the next seven days.

In the event of an appeal, he said recognisance on Mr Moore’s own bond of €100 would be required, supported by two independent sureties of €5,000, each paying €1,000 in cash and proving they are good for the balance. The sureties would have to be approved by the court, the judge said, adding: “The court would expect that those in authority or leadership in the Church of Scientology would go surety to ensure his [Mr Moore’s] appeal.”

He added that he had not heard that Mr Moore’s employer had sanctioned him or disapproved of what was said or had taken steps to ensure that no other person working for them would conduct themselves in that way.

He said the sentence need never be served if Mr Moore does what little is expected of him and his employers do what is expected of them. He said if it was felt the conditions he had set down were too onerous or unfair it was open to Mr Kelleher to appeal and take the matter to the High Court and that he would be guided by them. He said any recognisance needed to be signed in the next seven days.


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