Contempt of court proceedings against Facebook and Twitter struck out at Central Criminal Court
Contempt of court proceedings against Facebook and Twitter, where the identities of the two boys who murdered schoolgirl Ana Kriegel were shared, have been stuck out, despite the continuation of “alarming posts” online.
An injunction compelling Facebook Ireland Limited and Twitter International Company to remove any photographs or material identifying the two teenagers has also been discharged at the Central Criminal Court, following the boys’ sentencing earlier this month.
Lawyers for Boy A informed the court that there continues to be “alarming posts” online - one as recently as November 13 on Facebook – which have caused considerable distress to his client’s family.
Brendan Grehan SC on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said this matter was dealt with “swiftly” and a number of files are currently being considered for prosecution by the DPP.
Under the Children Act 2001 and by order of the trial judge Mr Justice Paul McDermott, it is an offence to identify the two boys as they are both aged 15 and considered minors.
The injunction against Facebook and Twitter was originally imposed by Mr Justice Michael White on June 19 after lawyers for the DPP told the court that photographs identifying the two boys had been circulated by social media users in the aftermath of them being convicted by a jury of murdering Ana Kriegel at a disused farmhouse in Lucan on May 4, 2018.
Mr Justice White agreed to extend the order against both social media platforms on July 26 for four months, until after the boys’ sentence hearing on October 29. Lawyers for Facebook and Twitter consented to the order remaining in place until November 22. The court heard that matters were continuing to be monitored at the time and both respondents were “wholeheartedly co-operating”.
The injunction stated that the social media giants must take down any photographs or posts identifying the boys which they “become aware of or which is brought to their attention”.
At a brief hearing this morning (Fri), Mr Grehan told Mr Justice White that the matter in which the court granted injunctions on June 19 had been mentioned a number of times before the court since then and was adjourned with the consent of the parties pending finalisation of sentence.
Mr Grehan said the sentencing proceedings in relation to Boy A and Boy B had concluded before Mr Justice McDermott on November 5 and he had continued his order directing that nothing identifying the two boys be published anywhere including on social media.
The barrister said that since these proceedings were first before the court, both Facebook and Twitter have cooperated with the DPP and the gardai in removing offending material and “halting its proliferation online”. “That along with a garda campaign has resulted in a situation whereby since this matter was last before the court on July 26, there has only been a few isolated incidents, all of which have been swiftly dealt with by the parties,” he explained.
Having regard to that situation, Mr Grehan said that it is agreed that the injunctions granted can be discharged and that the entire proceedings can be struck out with no further order required from the court.
“Facebook and Twitter have indicated they will continue to co-operate voluntarily with the DPP and the gardai,” he emphasised.
Furthermore, Mr Grehan said gardai have concluded a number of criminal investigations already and continue to investigate other persons who posted or repeated offending material on their social media. As a result, the barrister said a number of files are being considered for prosecution by the DPP.
In summary, Mr Grehan told the court that Mr Justice McDermott’s order remains in place and anybody who breaches it will not only be in contempt of court but will also be committing a criminal offence in breach of the Children Act of 2001.
Following this, Niall Nolan BL for Boy A, told the court that there continues to be “alarming posts” online, one as recently as November 13 on Facebook, which have caused considerable distress to his client’s family.
Mr Nolan handed a document into the court, detailing email correspondence between lawyers for Boy A and the DPP, which referenced the posts as well as a photo of his client which appears online. “Matters aren’t historic, it is on a Facebook account,” said Mr Nolan.
In reply, Mr Grehan said this matter was one of the isolated incidents referred to and was dealt with swiftly. “If any other matters arise they will be dealt with in the same manner,” he explained.
Rossa Fanning SC for Facebook Ireland Limited said Mr Grehan had summarised the situation fairly and his client was satisfied that the orders will be struck out. “Facebook will continue to cooperate on a voluntary basis with anything that arises,” he indicated.
Andrew Fitzpatrick SC on behalf of Twitter International Company said he took a similar position to Mr Fanning and was in agreement with Mr Grehan. His client would also cooperate voluntarily with gardai, said Mr Fitzpatrick.
Addressing the parties, Mr Justice White said that the trial judge had dealt with the matter and made the situation clear for those who continued to publish online. “I am quite happy in the circumstances to discharge the injunction order and strike out in full the proceedings with no further order,” he concluded.
The teenage boy who murdered and violently sexually assaulted Ana has been sentenced to life with a review after 12 years with his earliest possible release date being June 2031. His accomplice, who lured the “lonely and vulnerable” 14-year-old to an abandoned farmhouse and watched as she was sexually assaulted, was sentenced to 15 years detention with a review after eight years. His earliest release date is June 2027.
The teenage boys, now aged 15, are currently detained at the young offenders detention centre until they turn 18 when they will be moved to an adult prison.
Earlier this month, Mr Justice Paul McDermott ordered that probation, governor and education reports be prepared every two years for the benefit of the reviewing court, once the teenage boys are released from Oberstown detention centre and placed in custody.
The boys, identified in the media only as Boy A and Boy B, were convicted on June 18 of murdering Ana Kriegel (14) at Glenwood House, Laraghcon, Clonee Road, Lucan on May 14 last year. Boy A was also convicted of Ana’s aggravated sexual assault in a manner that involved serious violence to her.
Alison O’Riordan, Ireland International News Agency Ltd.