Wednesday 21 August 2019

'Appalling' - disabled man confronted by 'mob of vigilantes' in 'sting' operation

Mr Justice Peter Kelly. Picture: Frank McGrath
Mr Justice Peter Kelly. Picture: Frank McGrath

Tim Healy

The president of the High Court has strongly criticised a "vigilante" child protection group over a "sting" operation which has had "serious consequences" for a vulnerable, intellectually disabled man.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly also described as "appalling" that a video, since taken down by Facebook, was posted on social media featuring the man - who is a ward of court - being confronted by several people and aggressively "interrogated".

The judge said such "vigilantism" has "most serious" consequences for a very vulnerable person who lacks the mental ability to have intent, and cannot assist the efforts of gardaí to bring people to justice.

He noted, as part of the man's disability, he has an addiction to dating sites, and was in contact with a female on a site which states users cannot register unless they are 19. The man told carers he had understood the female was 19 and stopped contact when she told him she was 13 but later agreed to her suggestion to meet for a "hot chocolate".

When he went to meet the female, he was met by two women and three men, grabbed by the arms, aggressively questioned by one of the women, and a video of this was posted on social media.

Gardaí, who are aware of the man's disability, were alerted and took the man away for his own safety.

Suicidal

The matter was raised on an urgent basis this week before Mr Justice Kelly. A care worker at the man's residential placement told the court the man is very distressed and suicidal as a result of the encounter.

As the video had been viewed by tens of thousands of people, there is serious concern not just for the man's safety but the safety of other intellectually disabled people in his placement, she said.

The judge made orders preventing any unauthorised persons coming within 200 yards of that placement. He also made an order preventing the man having any phone or internet access as it has proved so detrimental to him.

He said people with an intellectual disability "need to be treated with respect and dignity" and the last thing they need is to be confronted by "a baying mob screaming for vengeance against a person who, because of their disability, cannot have mental intent of a deliberate type".

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News