A former TUV councillor could face imprisonment for violating an injunction against harassing a drag queen, a judge has warned.
Jolene Bunting is to be sentenced later this month after she accepted breaching the order to immediately remove a video about Belfast actor Matthew Cavan from social media platforms.
Mr Cavan told a court he has lost work, been wrongly accused of grooming children, and pursued by paedophile hunters because of the postings.
“I have had sleepless nights, I had to get security cameras and security lights put at the front of my house because I am terrified that these people are going to arrive at my house,” he said.
In July Ms Bunting was involved in protests at an arts centre in the city where Mr Cavan was taking part in a children’s story time event.
A group calling themselves Parents Against Grooming held banners which read “hands off our children” outside the MAC theatre.
Mr Cavan subsequently obtained an interim injunction against Ms Bunting over a video which was posted on YouTube and Twitter.
The order made on August 9 required her to take down all relevant content without delay.
With no compliance since then, the ex-councillor appeared at Belfast County Court on Monday to face contempt proceedings.
Ms Bunting’s barrister, Richard McLean, confirmed that she accepted the breach and has removed the material after obtaining legal advice.
“There’s been a passage of time, but also a level of maturity now being shown,” he submitted.
However, counsel for Mr Cavan claimed Ms Bunting waited until the eleventh hour to take down the content.
Melanie Rice argued: “It’s almost a month (since the order was made), at the door of the court and when she’s staring down the barrel of imprisonment.”
She insisted that the mother-of-two should receive significant punishment for her “flagrant conduct”.
“Nothing short of imprisonment is required in this case,” Ms Rice contended.
Although Ms Bunting decided not to give evidence, Mr Cavan described how his life has become “a bit of a mess” due to abuse on social media.
“I’m constantly receiving messages in response to the video, reinstating that people think I am a groomer, that I am paedophile because of this video,” he told the court.
Disclosing that work engagements have been cancelled, the actor said: “I believe this video tried to undermine me as a children’s performer and it has worked.
“I am constantly having to fight my corner, I received information that a paedophile hunter group is after me because of this video.
“My anxiety levels are through the roof, I am finding it difficult to leave the house because I am scared of what’s going to happen when I do.”
Mr Cavan claimed people felt able to say whatever they wanted about the case against Ms Bunting on Twitter.
"I believe she has exposed me as a human being, and I have had messages… that I should be totally ashamed of myself, taking a good God-abiding citizen to court," he said.
The court also heard statements have been made to police about the damage he feels has been caused to his life.
Adjourning the case, Her Honour Judge Harmer told Ms Bunting’s lawyer she wanted time to consider the appropriate sentence.
“I do consider these breaches to be serious, and I want some time to reflect to see whether or not we are in the realms, very unusually in these courts, of a custodial sentence,” she said.
“The injunction had the penal notice on it, your client was then served with contempt proceedings and continued with the breach.
“I don’t accept for one minute that it was because she didn’t have legal advice that she could not discern from those documents the consequences of a breach.”
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