Friday 23 August 2019

Ana Kriegel case: Court hears innocent child wrongfully identified as one of the boys on social media

The teenager was found dead at an abandoned farmhouse after she went missing last May (Family handout/PA)
The teenager was found dead at an abandoned farmhouse after she went missing last May (Family handout/PA)
Eimear Cotter

Eimear Cotter

AN INJUCTION is to remain in place ordering Facebook and Twitter to remove any photographs or material which identifies the two boys found guilty of the murder of Ana Kriegel.

The interim injunction was amended slightly this morning and now relates to material or photos tending to identify Boy A and Boy B which the social media giants "become aware of or which is brought to their attention".

Yesterday's order had directed the companies to "restrain any repeat" of further such material being published.

Facebook and Twitter had argued they could not in advance stop what users chose to post on their platforms.

Boy B and his co-accused Boy A were found guilty on Tuesday by a jury before the Central Criminal Court of the murder of Ana at a derelict farmhouse in Lucan on May 14 last year.

Boy A was also found guilty of a charge of aggravated sexual assault.

During the proceedings this morning, Boy B's lawyer, Damien Colgan, SC, told the court that following the publication of material after the verdict Boy B's family had been forced into hiding.

Mr Colgan also said a reporter from a tabloid newspaper had called to the home of Boy B yesterday looking to interview the family.

A lawyer for a school, Shelley Horan BL, said an entirely innocent teenager had been wrongly implicated on social media as one of the boys.

A staff member had also been targeted online, Ms Horan said.

Andrew McKeown BL, for Boy A, handed into court screenshots of tweets and messages, some of which, he said, were posted as late as last night and this morning.

He asked the court "to note the gravity of some of the breaches", saying there was a picture of Boy A in his school uniform and there were "threats against the boys, their parents and communities".

The two defendants and a school were not parties to the matter before the court.

Representatives of Facebook and Twitter were in court this morning after the judge ordered they be brought before him to answer allegations of contempt of court over the publication of photographs identifying the two boys.

The judge had also made an order yesterday for the removal of photos and restraining further publication of any material identifying Boy A and Boy B.

The teenagers cannot be identified because they are children under the Children Act 2001 and due to orders made by Mr Justice Paul McDermott during the trial.

This morning, Brendan Grehan, for the DPP, said the DPP had acted with speed yesterday in seeking the orders as it was aware material identifying the defendants was online and there was concern the material could go viral.

Rossa Fanning SC, for Facebook, had asked that there was no requirement for the order to remain in place against Facebook.

Mr Fanning said Facebook had acted "extremely expeditiously" and "acted proactively" to remove any material.

The social media platform also had technology which would block the images which had been removed from being re-posted by other users, however, Mr Fanning said other photos could emerge which the software might not detect.

Mr Fanning said Facebook was not aware of the names of Boy A and Boy B and he was concerned that Facebook could inadvertently and unknowingly be in breach of a court order.

Andrew Fitzpatrick SC, for Twitter, said it had taken immediate steps to remove the posts once it had been informed of them.

However, Mr Fitzpatrick said Twitter cannot in advance stop what users choose to post on its platform.

The order was amended slightly this morning directing the companies to remove material which "they become aware of or which is brought to their attention".

Mr Justice Michael White adjourned the matter for two weeks, and the interim injunction will remain in place until then.

The allegations of contempt of court were also adjourned.

The judge said he accepted the bone fides of Facebook and Twitter and accepted they had acted in good faith in how they had dealt with his matter.

Judge White said the trial of the two boys was "unique and sensitive" and special arrangements had been put in place by the Courts Service prior to the trial.

He said a major concern had been that "some idiots on social media" would breach the orders of the court and "now that has come to pass".

The judge said he was shocked to hear a child had been wrongfully identified on social media as one of the boys.

He also said the teenagers were entitled, under the law, to anonymity, and An Garda Siochana should pursue with vigour anyone who posts anything identifying them on social media.

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