Jolene Bunting barred from further harassment of Belfast drag queen for five years

Jolene Bunting is barred from any further harassment of Actor Matthew Cavan for the next five years Credit: Presseye

A former Belfast councillor who compared a drag queen to a wolf in make-up is barred from any further harassment of him for the next five years, a judge ordered today.

Actor Matthew Cavan was granted the injunction against Jolene Bunting over claims she used social media to falsely portray him as a child groomer.

Judge Claire Harmer ruled: “The defendant’s conduct crossed the line between that which is unattractive to that which is oppressive and unacceptable.”

Ms Bunting will also be sentenced at a later stage for contempt of a requirement to immediately remove a YouTube posting about the performer.

In July last year the ex-independent unionist councillor was involved in protests at an arts centre where Mr Cavan, also known as drag artist Cherrie Ontop, 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 in Belfast.

Following the event a video appeared on YouTube which featured an image of a wolf and a photograph of Mr Cavan.  

He told Belfast County Court the posting was a twisted portrayal of his work which left him horrified at being likened to the creature in make-up from the children’s fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood.

Mr Cavan said he received threats from paedophile hunters because of the posting on YouTube.

A group in east Belfast sent a message warning that they knew where he lived and were watching him, according to his evidence, while others told him to kill himself.

With the video clip viewed 22,000 times, Mr Cavan said the surrounding attention led to him losing three well-paid gigs. 

He was also put on anti-anxiety medication and had to install security cameras and lights at his home.

Ms Bunting denied specifically targeting Mr Cavan and insisted she was only concerned about safeguarding children.

She explained that she attended the protest after being “horrified” at press reports of alleged grooming within drag queen storytime events in England and the United States.

Expressing concern at the vetting processes, the former councillor insisted her issue was with the MAC, not the performer.

But Judge Harmer held that her actions amounted to harassment.

“It’s clear that the post was targeted at the plaintiff,” she said.

“I have no doubt that being linked to grooming children or paedophilia would cause alarm or distress.”

Despite recognising Ms Bunting’s right to freedom of expression, she found it was necessary and proportionate to interfere with that entitlement.

“(Her actions) were clearly intended to incite hatred and linked the plaintiff to child grooming and the sexualisation of children,” she said.

Judge Harmer confirmed: “I’m going to grant injunctive relief for a period of five years.”

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