TWO students who hacked Fine Gael's 2011 election website were spared jail sentences and have been left with clean records.
Darren Martyn (21), of Cloonbeggin, Claregalway, Co Galway, and 20-year-old Donnacha O Cearbhaill, from the Ring, Birr, Co Offaly, were the first to be successfully prosecuted in Ireland for computer hacking.
They had pleaded guilty in July to criminal damage to the www.finegael2011.ie website, which was defaced, had its database stolen and was knocked offline for 24 hours after it was hacked on January 9, 2011 – seven weeks before the general election. In court their actions were described as a "stunt" to embarrass the party.
In July, Judge Ann Ryan had noted that the pair had no prior criminal convictions and she had ordered them to take part in a restorative justice programme through the Probation Service.
The case resumed yesterday and Judge Ryan noted that the pre-sentence probation report was "very good". She said she was delighted that they had put their expertise to good use and told them: "I hope you have learnt your lesson."
They had also been ordered to bring €5,000 each to court for payment to FG to cover the costs of getting the website running again after it had been hacked.
FG had decided that half of the money should go to suicide prevention charity Pieta House and the remainder would be used to cover legal costs they incurred.
Judge Ryan said the pair had a "a lot to give to society" and she applied the Probation Offenders Act – meaning the pair have been spared jail sentences and will not have criminal records.
The website, set up for the 2011 election campaign, had invited readers to submit comments and contact details and had a little less than 2,000 subscribers.
Martyn studies forensic science and analysis, at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT); co-defendant O Cearbhaill, the son of Offaly Independent councillor John Carroll, is a student of medicinal chemistry at Trinity College Dublin.
In evidence, garda fraud squad officers told Judge Ryan that on January 9, 2011, the FG site had been hacked. Detectives Marion Brennan and Paul Johnstone told the court that the pair replaced the text on the site with the words "owned by Raepsauce and Palladium".
The site's subscribers' database was stolen, published on the internet and was also sent to a journalist. The site was inaccessible for 24 hours and according to FG it cost €10,000 to get it up and running again.
Nobody suffered as a result of the subscriber list data being taken, the judge also noted.