Disgraced school vice principal who helped pupils cheat is jailed for threats

A Co Armagh maths teacher and high school vice principal who sent a “deluge” of intimidating letters to managers at the educational bodies CCEA and CCMS was handed a four year sentence on Friday.

By Paul Higgins
Saturday, 9th July 2022, 1:16 am
Updated Saturday, 9th July 2022, 1:29 am
St Patrick's High School Keady, where Partick Hollywood taught maths
St Patrick's High School Keady, where Partick Hollywood taught maths

Patrick Hollywood, 41, threatened the lives of his victims and some of their children with visits from balaclava wearing IRA men.

Some of them watched proceedings at Newry Crown Court where Judge Gordon Kerr QC ordered him to serve two years in jail and two under supervised licence conditions.

Commenting that among the catalogue of charges against Hollywood “the most serious are the threats to kill,” the judge also imposed five year restraining orders in their favour, banning Hollywood from contacting them.

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Jailing the disgraced cheating maths teacher, Judge Kerr said Hollywood’s “planned and sophisticated” behaviour was aggravated because he had made multiple threats to multiple victims whose fear was increased when he referenced the IRA and the offences were “carefully designed to achieve his purpose to dismiss sanctions on his appeal”.

Hollywood, from the Upper Fathom Road in Newry and who was a teacher and vice principal at St Patrick’s High School in Keady, entered guilty pleas to seven charges of making a threat to kill, six of harassment, four of attempted intimidation and single counts of forgery and causing another person to fear that violence would be used against them, all committed between 31 December 2016 and 1 December 2018.

Having been sanctioned for helping pupils cheat on maths exams, Hollywood faced losing his job and career and his campaign of fear and intimidation was designed to stop those sanctions.

Summarising the case during his sentencing remarks, Judge Kerr outlined that in 2017, there were “several whistleblowing reports exposing malpractice and cheating at the school”.

The judge said that the ex principal Pat McGuckian began receiving anonymous letters “demanding that she leave her job,” signed by “your loyal and concerned staff.”

An investigation found that there had been cheating and sanctioned members of staff, including the head mistress and VP Hollywood, sanctions which would likely have resulted in the loss of his job and future potential employment.

Judge Kerr said there was evidence that if the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) appeal was not finalised, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) would not uphold the sanctions thereby saving Hollywood’s career and it was that end result which was his motivation.

Hollywood made threats against nine victims having sent poison pen letters to six victims where he threatened them and their children.

The court heard that he wrote to the HR manager of the CCEA threatening “violent action” against her and naming her children, claiming that “we have the complete support of local IRA volunteers” and warning that if they made the wrong decision, “you will get a visit to your home by men in balaclavas who will ensure that you will listen”.

“Otherwise there will be direct violence against you and your children. Do not view this as an idle threat. We know exactly who you are and where you live and know that you are in a position to fully carry out our requests. The lives and safety of you and your children depend upon it,” Hollywood had written. She thought her two children were in “danger”.

With Mrs McGuckian initially taking a leave of absence and then resigning her position, Hollywood also made threats against her replacement Dr Fionnuala Moore.

Judge Kerr told the court she had received a letter warning that if she became principal of St. Patrick’s she would be “putting your life and your family’s life in danger”.

He said that embarking on his “single minded” mission to “muddy the “muddy the waters” surrounding the sanctions and appeals process, Hollywood also claimed to have received threatening letter as he sought to “paint himself as a victim.”

However the ex VP refused to hand over the letters he supposedly received or to cooperate with the police probe.

The court heard that in his efforts to create confusion about his career ending sanctions, Hollywood had even written anonymously to his own solicitor, ordering her to withdraw from the case or face “violent action”.

Describing the offences as “well planned” and “sophisticated,” Judge Kerr said Hollywood would have had to research his victims before threatening them. When police seized his mobile and a laptop hidden at his parent’s house, detectives discovered he had googled “methods to disguise his offending”.

He told the court while there was medical evidence that Hollywood had suffering a “delusional disorder” it was clear from the report the disorder did not detract from his perception of right and wrong.

Taking a starting point of six years, Judge Kerr said he was discounting the sentence for Hollywood’s guilty pleas, clear record and medical condition so imposed four years.