Wednesday 28 September 2016

Investigation launched after fake garda Facebook page appears online

Cathal McMahon

Published 22/07/2016 | 18:15

The page was set up on Facebook in the last year
The page was set up on Facebook in the last year

A probe has been launched after a Facebook page, claiming to represent An Garda Síochána, appeared on the social network.

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The page 'Dublin Garda Division' was set up earlier this year online. It carries a number of photos and logos that would appear to show it represents the force.

On its information page the creator describes it as "Policing in the Greater Dublin area". The page also offers an email address where users can send information.

A source has revealed that it has nothing to do with An Garda Síochána and concerns have been raised that members of the public may make reports to this false page.

A screenshot of the Facebook page
A screenshot of the Facebook page

A spokesperson for the garda press office confirmed: "An Garda Síochana are enquiring into this matter at this time."

Dublin North West TD Noel Rock (FG) said: "Some people might think this is trivial or even funny, but it's really quite serious - people who report incidents to this page think they are speaking to gardaí and think their incident has been reported when, in fact, it has not.

"Virtual impersonation is the same as impersonation and this needs to be treated seriously".

Dublin councillor and chairman of the Joint Policing Committee Daithí de Roiste said a page like this should serve as a wake-up call to An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice.

He said: "I would be concerned that people might contact this page thinking they are talking to gardaí but they are not."

He added: "At the moment there is no clear method by which members of the public can contact gardaí on social media. I really feel this is something that needs to be looked at."

A screenshot of the Facebook page
A screenshot of the Facebook page

Under section 60(1) of the Garda Síochana Act 2005 it is an offence to impersonate a member of the Garda Síochána or make any statement or does any act calculated falsely to suggest that he or she is such a member.

On summary conviction a person found guilty is liable to a fine not exceeding €3,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.

On conviction on indictment, the person is liable to a fine not exceeding €50,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.

It is not clear if this act would extend to social media.

Independent.ie has learned that another fake Facebook page, claiming to belong to the Garda Representative Association (GRA), was shut down after officials complained to the social network.

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