Thursday 19 September 2019

Ana Kriegel trial: Injunction ordering Facebook and Twitter to remove posts identifying killers extended

Murdered: Ana Kriegel
Murdered: Ana Kriegel
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

AN INJUNCTION ordering Facebook and Twitter to remove any photographs or posts identifying Ana Kriegel’s killers has been extended for four months, ahead of the boys' sentence hearing.

The Central Criminal Court heard the "status quo" would continue as both social media platforms had been "wholeheartedly co-operating" with the order.

The injunction had been put in place last month after lawyers for the DPP told the court photographs of the boys, identifying them, had been circulated by social media users.

The situation came to light a day after two boys - Boy A and Boy B, now aged 14 -  were convicted by a jury of murdering Ana (14) at a disused farmhouse in Lucan on May 4, 2018.

Boy A was also found guilty of aggravated sexual assault. The teenagers cannot be identified under the Children Act 2001, and by order of  the trial judge, Mr Justice Paul McDermott.

The injunction states the social media giants must take down any material identifying the boys that they "become aware of or which is brought to their attention".

The order had been given a three-week extension to today as the accused had initially been given a sentence date of July 15. However this has since been put back to October 29 pending psychiatric, probation and other reports.

This morning, Brendan Grehan SC, for the DPP told Mr Justice Michael White in the circumstances, he was asking for the proceedings to be put back to November 22 “with the status quo continuing until then.”

Matters were continuing to be monitored, he said, and "both respondents in this matter have been wholeheartedly co-operating."

Rossa Fanning SC, for Facebook said he was consenting to the order remaining in place until November 22. A third sworn affidavit had been handed in to court and he said he thought it was "appropriate that the court be appraised of the proactive work" Facebook had been doing and that it was continuing to liaise with the gardai.

Andrew Fitzpatrick SC said Twitter had also submitted an affidavit in relation to "what we have been doing."

He noted that Mr Grehan had accepted that Twitter was co-operating.

"Given the acute sensitivity of the case were are prepared to consent to the matter going back," he said.

The proceedings, including allegations of contempt of court against Facebook and Twitter, were adjourned to November 22.

On the last day in court, Mr Grehan had said the situation was "stable" but the DPP was concerned that the issue "could flare up" again given that the sentencing process was “at a particularly delicate stage.”

The initial injunction had ordered the social media platforms to "restrain any repeat" of further material being published.

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

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

Facebook 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 had 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.

Mr Fitzpatrick had said Twitter took 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 judge said he accepted that Facebook and Twitter had acted in good faith in how they had dealt with his matter.

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

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

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.

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