A former Belfast councillor, Jolene Bunting, has been fined for breaching a court injunction against the harassment of a Belfast-based drag queen.
The £750 fine was imposed on the disgraced councillor yesterday, June 5, 2023, after she pled guilty to refusing to take down a social media video about the performer.
In making the ruling, Judge Claire Harmer recognised that Bunting’s failure to remove the video had caused significant stress to actor Matthew Cavan, who often performs as drag persona Cherrie Ontop. She also acknowledged the impact on the performer’s mental health and employment prospects.
In recognising the deliberate action, Justice Harmer said, “This was not an unintentional breach or mistake, it was a deliberate breach of a court order.”
Since July last year, Bunting appeared to have begun a targeted campaign towards Cavan after it was announced that Cherrie Ontop would host a drag storytime event at the MAC theatre in Belfast.
During the event, a group calling themselves Parents Against Grooming displayed banners reading “Hands off our children.” Shortly afterwards, a video was posted on YouTube with a photograph of Cavan alongside a wolf.
Speaking to Belfast Live after the event, Cavan said, “I have been the target of abuse for the last few weeks. I have been getting death threats and have had to get the police involved. I was called a paedophile online.”
Following the intimidation, Cavan was awarded a five-year court injunction against Bunting, barring her from any further harassment of the Belfast drag queen.
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During the injunction hearing, Cavan spoke of being horrified to be likened to a villain from a fairytale such as Little Red Riding Hood. He also reported that a group from East Belfast had sent messages saying they knew where he lived, resulting in him installing security cameras and lights at his home.
According to his evidence, Cavan suggested that he had lost paid work since the posting of the video and had been put on anti-anxiety medication as a result.
In pleading her defence, Bunting, who was also disqualified from holding office on Belfast City Council for three years earlier this year, claimed that she had not specifically targeted Cavan and that she was only concerned with the welfare of children.
Following yesterday’s verdict, Cavan took to social media, saying, “Justice has been served! Let’s hope that’s it put to bed!
“Thank you to everyone for your amazing support… I have been very humbled by this whole situation!”
He continued, “HATE SPEECH AND ABUSE TOWARDS THE LGBTQIA+ community, must forever be held accountable xx.”
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