A debt collector who ran a Celbridge-based agency has failed in his appeal against an 18-month jail sentence after being convicted of intimidating two innocent parties by making a threat to kidnap and organising the posting of defamatory flyers at showjumping events around the country.
Kevin Molloy (51), a native of Donegal with a last known address in Bunclody, Co Wexford but now living in Cavan was given a two and a half year sentence with the final 12 months suspended by Mullingar Circuit Criminal Court in May after pleading guilty to two counts of harassing a man and his daughter on dates between April and August 2015.
Lawyers for Molloy, a father of two, had also appealed a ban on him from operating as a debt collector for seven years upon release, claiming it denied him means to support his family.
Molloy, who ran Ár Cairde Debt Recovery based in Celbridge, Co Kildare, is due to begin serving his sentence on September 30 after he was allowed time to put his affairs in order.
The Court of Appeal heard Molloy had phoned Joe Byrne, the father of the girlfriend of another man whom he was pursuing for an alleged debt and threatened Mr Byrne that he would kidnap and “sort out” his daughter’s boyfriend as well as sending him seven intimidating texts.
Molloy had also arranged for flyers to be posted at several equestrian events where Mr Byrne’s daughter, Aisling, a well-known showjumper and model, was competing as well as in Mullingar where she lived.
They contained photos of Ms Byrne and her boyfriend together with defamatory comments.
The Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that the sentencing judge, Judge Keenan Johnson, was correct in identifying Molloy’s offences as falling “at the upper mid-range” and the headline sentence of four years was correct when the maximum was seven years.
Mr Justice John Edwards, presiding, with Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said the reduction of the headline sentence by 18 months was “more than generous”.
The court said an actual prison sentence of 18 months when the headline sentence was four years more than reflected any mitigating factors and the judge might well have considered the imposition of consecutive sentences.
Mr Justice Edwards said the ban on Molloy operating as a debt collector for seven years was legitimate and proportionate given the offences were conducted in the course of his work.
Dismissing Molloy’s appeal, the judge said his past criminality including offences of dishonesty as recent as 2018 was also a factor.
The Court of Appeal heard Molloy had 37 previous convictions for offences including theft, deception, burglary, forgery and the unauthorised possession of a firearm.
Barra McGrory QC, for Molloy had claimed the 18-month jail sentence was unduly harsh, with the ban on operating as a debt collector described as “excessive”.
Mr McGrory said Molloy accepted that his behaviour and conduct was reprehensible and improper. However, he claimed the sentence imposed was significantly higher than might be expected when compared to sentences imposed for similar offences in other cases.
The barrister claimed Judge Johnson had also strayed into punishing Molloy because of his concerns over the lack of regulation of debt collection services in Ireland.
He also argued the sentencing judge had failed to take into account Mr Molloy’s personal circumstances including the fact that he was now living with a new partner, who suffered serious health issues, in a rural part of Co Cavan.
Opposing the appeal, Vincent Heneghan SC, for the DPP, said a headline sentence of four years in the case was “wholly appropriate” given the offences contained “a sinister element”.
Mr Heneghan noted the sentencing judge had described Molloy’s actions as “outrageous and reprehensible”.
Counsel said the imposition of a ban forbidding Molloy from working in debt collection for seven years did not prevent him from taking up other forms of employment and was a measure designed to protect the public.