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Man charged with disturbing social media campaign against ex-partner

'I am disgusted by anybody who puts the image he did on the internet for whatever reason'

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Despite police objections a twenty-six-year-old man has been released on bail following a “disturbing” social media campaign against his ex-partner.

Zach McAnenly from Cluaneo Meadows, Coalisland is charged with breaching a Non-Molestation Order and misusing a communications network by sending messages which were grossly offensive and intimidating.

The offences, which are aggravated by domestic abuse are alleged to have occurred on dates between February 6 and 11.

A police officer aware of the facts of the case told Dungannon Magistrates’ Court the charges could be connected.

She explained police received a third-party report from a woman expressing concerns over Instagram posts by McAnenly who was her sister’s ex-partner.

There were 13 “disturbing” posts referring to her family members, screenshots of which were provided to police.

The victim was unaware of the posts until informed by police, and when shown them, felt they were attempts to contact her indirectly.

The content left her “intimidated and worried about her safety and her family”.

She currently has a Non-Molestation Order against McAnenly which forbids any form of contact.

He, meanwhile, had been in hospital and was arrested when discharged on February 29.

During interview he made partial admissions to the posts but denied they were aimed at the victim, or an effort to contact her indirectly, pointing out the account is private and he has blocked her and her family so they couldn’t have seen them.

While claiming not to remember some of the posts McAnenly described his Instagram as “a private diary”.

He claimed a post showing an image of a balaclava “represented his loss of identity”.

Another post contained images of legal documents and a baseball bat which indicated him “beaten and failed by the legal system”.

Objecting to bail the officer said: “The content of the posts is disturbing and the defendant’s mental health appears to be poor. The victim left the relationship after it broke down last year and her mother has made five reports of incidents to police from November 2023. The defendant just continues to post messages on social media about the victim and her family, which is very upsetting for them. The victim is absolutely terrified of the defendant and fears he could kill her family.”

A defence barrister said McAnenly accepted posting the messages but insisted the victim and her family could not have viewed them.

“They were not intended directly for the victim. The defendant’s mother was perturbed by his behaviour and spoke to his GP and he was admitted to hospital. His father has advised he shouldn’t have been discharged as a further assessment was required. He was released by mistake. We submit he should be granted bail to be readmitted to hospital.”

District Judge Michael Ranaghan remarked: “Some sort of intervention is needed but the other side of the coin is I am disgusted by anybody who puts the image he did on the internet for whatever reason. It’s stupid, pointless and clearly aimed at the victim. Anyone who knows them knows what this is referencing. I’ve no doubt he knew what he was doing despite the mental health issues in play. This man needs to be supervised.”

He decided risks could be managed with strict conditions including residence at an address approved by police and no contact by any means with the victim or her family.

There is also a ban on all internet-capable devices and McAnenly is to see his GP within 48 hours of release from custody.

The case will return to court on March 22.

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