A Sydney radiologist has been handed a 9 month prison sentence for harassing six people including her ex-boyfriend and his new partner via email text and social media.
The story so far
Dr Lee was charged in 2017 with six counts of using a carriage service to menace and harass, two counts of contravening a domestic Apprehended Violence Order and one count of stalking/intimidation with intent to cause physical harm.
Days after being charged, Ms Lee was sacked from her job as a radiologist in Sydney and the following month the Medical Council of NSW suspended her on the grounds that she allegedly acted “in ways that damage the standing of the medical profession.” The Medical Council also had concerns that there was a “significant risk” that she may behave similarly towards patients.
But the NSW Civil Administration Tribunal granted a stay on her suspension by the Medical Council of NSW to allow her to continue to work to fund her legal fees in an appeal against the medical watchdog and to fight the criminal charges.
Despite originally being charged with 10 offences last year Ms Lee pleaded guilty to four charges and the remaining were dropped following negotiations with prosecutors.
Evidence presented to court
The court heard that she sent thousands of texts to Matthew Holberton, a man she met on tinder. After ten dates over a period of four months, he broke it off with her, which started her barrage of abusive and threatening messages. In one, she vowed to target “whatever you value most” In another she admitted she was “hell-bent on revenge,” and in another said: “I am going to f*** your life up”.
When Mr Holberton blocked Ms Lee’s number, she continued the abuse by creating multiple other identities, using 38 different email addresses, including Protonmail and VPN services to conceal the sender’s details.
When Mr Holberton moved to Melbourne and started a new relationship, Ms Lee began to target his new girlfriend, her colleagues and her mother with messages. The Magistrate described the content as at least defamatory and slanderous, if not “vile, despicable and offensive”.
Referring to the new partner’s social media posts, Ms Lee sent insults including “hagged mutton face”, “ugly, attention-seeking slag” and “you have a beak like an eagle”.
In sentencing, Magistrate Michael Barko told Downing Centre Local Court that in 34 years of criminal justice in NSW, “I’ve never seen a case like this before.”
The Magistrate sentenced Ms Lee to nine months in jail and a two-year community corrections order, including 200 hours of community service.
He said the community must understand “gutless and cowardly” use of communication tools came with serious ramifications.
Ms Lee filed an appeal to the District Court of New South Wales and was granted conditional bail pending that appeal.
The offence of stalking or intimidation in NSW
The offence of stalking or intimidation is contained in section 13 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007, which prescribes a maximum penalty of five years in prison for a ‘person who stalks or intimidates another person with the intention of causing the other person to fear physical or mental harm’.
For the purposes of the section:
- causing a person to fear physical or mental harm includes causing the person to fear physical or mental harm to another person with whom he or she has a domestic relationship,
- a person intends to cause fear of physical or mental harm if he or she knows that the conduct is likely to cause fear in the other person,
- the prosecution is not required to prove that the person alleged to have been stalked or intimidated actually feared physical or mental harm, and
- an attempt to commit the offence is enough to establish the offence.
- conduct (including cyberbullying) amounting to harassment or molestation of the person,
- an approach made to the person by any means (including by telephone, telephone text messaging, e-mailing and other technologically assisted means) that causes the person to fear for his or her safety, or
- any conduct that causes a reasonable apprehension of injury to a person or to a person with whom he or she has a domestic relationship, or of violence or damage to any person or property.
The court may have regard to any pattern of violence (especially violence constituting a domestic violence offence) in the person’s behaviour when determining whether conduct amounts to intimidation.
‘Stalking’ is defined by section 8 of the Act as including:
- the following of a person about,
- the watching or frequenting of the vicinity of, or an approach to, a person’s place of residence, business or work or any place that a person frequents for the purposes of any social or leisure activity, and
- contacting or otherwise approaching a person using the internet or any other technologically assisted means.
Again, the court can consider any pattern of violence when determining whether conduct amounts to stalking.
A person with who there is a ‘domestic relationship’ is someone who:
- is or has been married to the other person,
- is or has been a de facto partner of that other person,
- has or has had an intimate personal relationship with the other person, whether or not the intimate relationship involves or has involved a relationship of a sexual nature,
- is living or has lived in the same household as the other person,
- is living or has lived as a long-term resident in the same residential facility as the other person and at the same time as the other person (not being a facility that is a correctional centre or detention centre),
- has or has had a relationship involving his or her dependence on the ongoing paid or unpaid care of the other person,
- is or has been a relative of the other person, or
- in the case of an Aboriginal person or a Torres Strait Islander, is or has been part of the extended family or kin of the other person according to the Indigenous kinship system of the person’s culture.
Defences to the charge include:
The offence of using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend
Using a Carriage Service to Menace, Harass or Cause Offence is an offence under section 474.17 of the Criminal Code Act 1995, which carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for three years.
Using a carriage service to menace occurs when a person uses emails, text messages, phone calls and social media communications to harass, menace or offend. The law states that an offence is committed if a person:
- uses a carriage service; and
- does so in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.
Again, defences to the charge include:
- Duress, and
Going to Downing Centre Court?
If you have been accused of a criminal or traffic matter and will be attending Downing Centre Local or District Court, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a free first appointment with an experienced criminal defence lawyer who will advise you of your options and the best way forward.
Our head offices are located directly across the road from Downing Centre Courthouse.