Oct 26, 2017

Scientology director opposes lifting of injunction preventing harassment from former Church member

Zabrina Collins
Tim Healy
October 26 2017

A CHURCH of Scientology (CoS) director told the High Court she fears she will be harassed again and that it will get worse if an injunction preventing a former member from watching and besetting her is lifted.

Zabrina Collins (39) says Peter Griffiths' behaviour towards her had got progressively worse over a number of years until she obtained the injunction in 2014.

Ms Collins, a Dublin city centre-based chiropractor, was opposing an appeal by Mr Griffiths seeking to lift the injunction preventing him intimidating, besetting, assaulting or interfering with her access to buildings.

Mr Griffiths, Cual Gara, Teeling Street, Ballina, Co Mayo, says the injunction is too wide because it also prevents him from engaging in peaceful protest. He has taken part in street protests with a group called "Anonymous" outside CoS offices in Dublin, Cork and Belfast and has featured on numerous internet videos campaigning against the church, the court was told.

Mr Griffiths, and another former CoS member, John McGhee, of Armstrong Grove, Clara, Co Offaly, were last year ordered by the Circuit Court to pay €2,000 and €3,500, respectively, for assault and battery, to Ms Collins and to another current CoS member, Michael O'Donnell, of Cherrywood Lawn, Clondalkin, Dublin.

That case arose out of 27-minute video filmed by Mr Giffiths where he and Mr McGhee followed Ms Collins and Ms O'Donnell as they distributed a CoS-funded booklet called "The Truth about Drugs" to homes and business in north city Dublin on December 20, 2014.

The Circuit Court judge who made the awards to Ms Collins and Mr O'Donnell said the video showed that although Mr Griffiths played a lesser role, as he videoed the incidents, he had consorted with Mr McGhee in harassment and assault.

The video was replayed in the High Court on Thursday for Mr Justice Seamus Noonan when Ms Collins gave evidence opposing the appeal.

Ms Collins said she was involved in the Truth about Drugs campaign because she had a drug problem as a teenager which arose out of her father, Frank Shortt's wrongful conviction for allowing allowing the sale of drugs at his nightclub in Inishowen, Co Donegal. Mr Shortt, who spent three years in prison, was later awarded €4.6m as a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Ms Collins said due to the turmoil and stress created by her father's case, she began taking ecstasy, LSD and speed. However, when he went into prison she decided to stop and went "cold turkey" because she believed "if it wasn't for the drugs industry, he would not be in prison".

She later went on to study at Queens in Belfast before going to Australia where she joined the CoS

She said as the years progressed, incidents involving Mr Griffiths became "more and more volatile" including one where she and her husband were dining in the Epicurian Food Hall in Abbey Street. Mr Griffiths was shouting at them and Mr McGhee was filming the incident which, like many other videos they took, ended up on YouTube.

In another incident, she was with her 11-year-old daughter when Griffiths obstructed their way into the Abbey Street CoS office shouting at them and making remarks which scared her daughter.

Her daughter had as recently as last week asked if she could sleep in her bed with her one night because she (daughter) just had a dream that Mr McGhee was chasing her down a street with a gun, she said.

Mr Griffiths was also involved in protests when she was on promotions of her chiropractor business in shopping centres, she said.

On the day the 27-minute video was shot, she was co-ordinating booklet distribution by 18 CoS volunteers from her chiropractic business in Parnell Street where Mr Griffith was part of a protest.

When one of the volunteers rang her from Capel Street to say he was being followed around by Mr Griffiths and Mr McGhee, she and Mr O'Donnell went to the volunteer where they took some of his booklets and started distributing them themselves.

The video of Ms Collins and Mr O'Donnell being followed was played to the court.

Asked by her counsel Frank Beatty about how she felt about what happened that day, she said she was frightened particularly as Mr McGhee had put his arm around her to try to grab her booklets and hit her in the face in doing so.

"I did not know how far they would go with the pushing and molesting", she said.

The hearing continues.


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