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Saturday 23 August 2014

Mother of cyberbullied teen pleads with Facebook to release records

Gareth Naughton

Published 12/06/2014 | 14:07

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Darren Hughes-Gibson (17)
Darren Hughes-Gibson (17)

A HEARTBROKEN mother who believes her teenage son took his own life after being cyberbullied has pleaded with Facebook to show compassion by releasing records to the Dublin coroner.

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Elaine Hughes made the plea after gardaí told coroner Dr Brian Farrell that attempts to retrieve messages sent to her 17-year-old son Darren Hughes-Gibson on the social networking site have failed because Facebook are not co-operating.

“I would appeal to Facebook to please show some compassion. He was a 17-year-old child whose life was lost through no fault of Facebook but to the bullies who put those messages up there.

"For a bit of justice for him, if they could please, please release them to the Coroner’s Court. I do not feel that there has been a full investigation. Please God nobody else has to go through what we have had to go through as a family,” she said, speaking outside the court.

A Facebook spokesperson responded this evening, saying: “Facebook’s Law Enforcement team works closely with agencies around the world.

"We respond to valid legal requests for information and encourage Law Enforcement agencies to follow our guidelines to help take their cases forward.”

Tragic Darren was found hanging at Stephenstown Industrial Estate in Balbriggan, north county Dublin on August 23, 2012. He had been reported missing by Ms Hughes when he failed to return to their home at New Haven Bay in Balbriggan the previous night.

On the first day of the inquest held in September last year, Ms Hughes told the coroner that Darren may have received threatening messages on Facebook before his death which were subsequently deleted.

The inquest has been adjourned a number of times so gardaí could request copies of the messages from Facebook. In the intervening period, Ms Hughes also found texts on Darren’s phone, submitted to the court, which she described as “horrific” and “threatening”.

Facebook’s failure to co-operate with gardaí emerged as Dr Farrell was being updated on progress with their investigation. Garda Fergal McSharry said they have been liaising with the FBI on retrieving the messages from Facebook but the company is not co-operating.

“Mutual assistance has not worked. Headquarters here in the Phoenix Park got onto the FBI who got onto Facebook. That is the mutual assistance and Facebook have not co-operated with them,” he said.

Gda McSharry also told the court that the Director of Public Prosecutions has revisited the matter and directions have come back that there will be no prosecution. “No offence has been disclosed,” he said.

When asked by Ms Hughes if the people who sent the messages have been interviewed by gardaí, he said they have not.

“The problem is: what do we arrest them for? What complaint? There is a lot of hearsay evidence. That is the difficulty that the DPP has the issue with, I think. What do we arrest them for and, if they are arrested, what are they subsequently charged with? That seems to be where it is falling down,” he said.

Addressing the coroner, Ms Hughes said that she believes that if everything had gone to the DPP including the Facebook messages “it would be a different story”.

“For me, a full investigation would be every message, whether it is phone message or a Facebook message, a threat is a threat no matter how it is received… I do not understand how an investigation can be passed on to the DPP without speaking to the individuals involved and having those messages from Facebook,” she said.

Ms Hughes also told the coroner that she believes the phone messages should be “cause” enough to warrant the DPP making further efforts in the case. She is currently seeking a meeting with the DPP.  “Every single day we are losing teenagers,” she said, “Does it get to a stage where you are above the law? You can do whatever you want?”.

Dr Farrell said that he would write to Facebook directly requesting the records but warned the family that they should not be “over optimistic” that he will be successful.

 

He adjourned the inquest until September 22.

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