Northern Ireland news

Jolene Bunting fined £750 for breaching an injunction against harassing a drag queen

Jolene Bunting at Belfast Laganside Court this morning. Picture by Hugh Russell

A former Belfast councillor has been fined £750 for breaching an injunction against harassing a drag queen.

The sentence was imposed on Jolene Bunting today after she admitted violating an order to immediately take down a social media video about Matthew Cavan.

Her Honour Judge Claire Harmer said the failure to remove the YouTube posting on time had led to the actor suffering significant stress.

She ruled: “This was not an unintentional breach or mistake, it was a deliberate breach of a court order.” 

Ms Bunting has already been barred from any further harassment of the performer for the next five years. 


Drag queen Matt Cavan at Laganside Court. Picture by Hugh Russell


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.

In August the actor obtained an interim injunction which required her to take down the social media postings without delay.

Contempt of court proceedings were brought against Ms Bunting for failing to comply with the order until the day of the hearing.

Although she initially received a four-month conditional discharge, the Court of Appeal remitted the case for resentencing.

Lawyers for Mr Cavan argued that the violation was so serious that a term of imprisonment should be imposed.

Issuing a fresh determination, Judge Harmer acknowledged the impact on the performer’s mental health and employment prospects.

But she added: “The defendant, albeit on the morning of the hearing, did remove all content from social media.

“She did admit the breach and despite a further posting there was some appreciation of the seriousness of the breach.”

Imposing total fines of £750, Judge Harmer gave Ms Bunting 26 weeks to pay the full amount.


Northern Ireland news