Jailed for threat to kill social worker

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

A man who threatened to cut up a social worker and send the body parts to her family has been jailed for six months.

Gerald Anthony Declan Dobbin, of Richmond Avenue, pleaded guilty to making a threat to kill on December 26, last year.

Derry Magistrates Court heard the 45-year-old made three 999 calls and told the call handler he was going to kill his daughter’s social worker by cutting her up and sending her bits to her family.

He also told the call handler he had not taken his medication and had consumed ten litres of cider.

During police interview, Dobbin said he had no memory of the calls but claimed he never intended to carry out the threats.

He said he had ‘nothing but respect’ for the social worker.

It was revealed to the court the social worker returned to work for a brief period after she was informed of the threats.

However, she is now off on ‘stress related sick leave’.

District Judge Barney McElholm said this incident ‘has ramifications not only for the victim and her family but all the other children that the victim was working with’.

He added: ‘It may have held up cases in the family proceedings court and even if there are no court related matters with a particular child I’m well aware how children can come to rely on and trust their social worker’.

Defence counsel Eoghan Devlin said ‘strangely enough this will actually have an impact on this man’s child’.

He added that the ‘seriousness of this was never lost on the defendant’.

Mr Devlin told the court there was ‘no reason for this’ and it was ‘something totally out of the blue’.

He said Dobbin has a number of difficulties and had consumed a quantity of alcohol on this day, however that ‘doesn’t take away from the effect this has had on the injured party’.

Passing sentence, Judge McElholm said: ‘There are many elements to the fine art of sentencing - retribution, deterrent and rehabilitation.

“Whether or not it is always popular with the public or their elected representatives, rehabilitation is quite frequently the most important element for society.

“If successful, that individual will not commit further offences’.

However, the judge added: ‘One always has to consider whether or not one is sending out the wrong message to others in the community.

“If they think the courts go softly on a particular crime, it may encourage others to commit that crime’.

Referring to Dobbin, he said he was ‘not at all convinced’ the 45-year-old has ‘sufficient motivation’ for a community based sentence.

The judge said there would have to be a deterrent sentence in this case as ‘social workers are extraordinarily vulnerable in that they are often dealing with irrational and angry people and are frequently on their own with out any form of protection’.

He added : “Society has to realise the court and community will not tolerate any attack or threat of attack on social workers.”

Dobbin was jailed for six months and ordered to pay an offender levy of £25.

A restraining order was also imposed which bans the 45-year-old from harassing, threatening or intimidating the injured party.

He is also banned from going within 25 metres of the social worker.