Belfast X Factor star Jolene Burns guilty of calling ex-pal a pervert in smear campaign
Jolene Burns given conditional discharge for comments on Facebook
A former X Factor contestant from Northern Ireland has been found guilty of conducting a smear campaign against an ex-friend on Facebook.
Belfast woman Jolene Burns, who made it through to the bootcamp stage of the show in 2011 alongside eventual winners Little Mix, received a conditional discharge for calling a male friend a "pervert" on the website.
She was convicted at the city's magistrates' court on Thursday of two counts of improper use of a public electronic communications network.
After the 28-year-old's conviction, her victim said that he was left living in fear after the offensive comments about him appeared online.
Burns, from Glandore Drive in the north of the city, posted a photograph of the father-of-one and branded him a "pervert".
She also claimed that he was stalking her and taking photographs of her and her child.
Another post claimed that Burns had been forced to leave her job and her home because of him. All the comments have since been removed from the website.
The pair struck up a friendship last summer after meeting in a Belfast cafe where Burns was working.
Her victim told the Belfast Telegraph that she was initially very kind to him.
They fell out a few months later, however, after which the allegations about him appeared on two Facebook pages.
He reported the posts to police and Burns was subsequently arrested and charged.
Her victim, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was disappointed by the court's decision to impose a conditional discharge and told how he had been left "anxious and depressed" by the smear campaign.
"When I first met Jolene, I was taken aback by how kind and attentive she was," he added. "I have suffered for many years with anxiety and depression, and it was refreshing to be able to talk to someone, especially about my son, who has autism and requires a lot of attention.
"However, after a short period, Jolene's attitude towards me changed when I made it clear that I was not interested in her in a romantic way."
The father-of-one described feeling physically ill when he learned of her allegations.
"When I became aware of the Facebook posts I felt nauseous," he said. "I was completely overcome with anxiety and paranoia from that moment until now.
"I have been shouted at on the street on several occasions and have also been threatened with physical violence.
"I now find it almost impossible to take my child out in Belfast for fear of something happening to him in my presence.
"Jolene has brought me to a very dark place with her actions. I would hate to think of her doing it to someone else.
Since it was Burns' first offence, a judge decide to impose a conditional discharge for a year. The punishment is an order that means a person will not be sentenced for an offence unless a further offence is committed within a stated period.
"I was very disappointed by the conditional discharge the court imposed," Burns' victim told the Belfast Telegraph. "The impact of something like this on a person's life is huge."
The singer impressed The X Factor judges in the first auditions of season eight of the show in 2011 and was voted through to the bootcamp stage.
She was one of the Northern Ireland hopefuls that year, along with Omagh's Janet Devlin. While Janet made it through to the live shows, Burns failed to complete bootcamp. Girl band Little Mix went on to win the contest.
Last year, Burns appeared on the Irish version of The Voice and was coached by Irish musician Niall Breslin, known as Bressie, but she was eliminated at the battles stage of the contest.
Since then, she has performed at a number of Belfast nightspots.