Facebook and Twitter ordered to court over photos of boys convicted of Ana Kriegel murder
A JUDGE has ordered Facebook and Twitter to be brought before him to answer for allegations of contempt of court over the publication of photographs identifying the two boys convicted of murdering Ana Kriegel.
Mr Justice Michael White directed representatives of the social media giants to come to the Central Criminal Court tomorrow after he was told of an alleged “wilful disregard” of the law and court orders banning the identification of the boys.
The judge also made an interim order for the removal of the photos in question and restraining further publication of any material identifying Boy A and Boy B.
He granted the orders following an application brought by lawyers for the Director of Public Prosecutions this afternoon.
Brendan Grehan SC said he had an “urgent application” to make following the conclusion of the trial before Mr Justice Paul McDermott yesterday.
He said the two convicted boys were 14 years old; as such they were covered by the provisions of Section 252 (1) of the Children Act, and nothing should be published or broadcast that tended to identify them.
In addition to this, Mr Justice McDermott had made orders in advance of the trial, during it and specifically yesterday following conviction directing that the two boys not be identified, Mr Grehan said.
This was “very specific, clear and widely reported in the media.”
Since then, a solicitor in the DPP’s office had received e-mail correspondence from solicitors acting for Boy B “to the effect that Facebook images were circulating” of a school picture of the boys, identifying them and with “derogatory comments.”
Separately, the DPP’s office received further information in the course of the day that other Facebook users were identifying the now-convicted boys.
There had also been communication from solicitors acting on behalf of the boys’ school at the time of the murder, that they had come across “a whole host of material” identifying the boys, with “comments.”
“It is clear that some of the commentators are quite aware of the fact that orders were made to protect their identity ,” Mr Grehan said.
A number of individuals were capable of being identified from their Facebook pages, he said.
“The difficulty in these being shared is that we don’t know at this stage to what extent”, Mr Grehan said.
“We are conscious of something going viral in terms of matters being repeatedly shared in ever increasing numbers across particular platforms,” he said.
“We take the view that the operators of these platforms have a responsibility in respect of these matters,” he said.
He said he would be seeking an order against Facebook and Twitter.
The case concerned a “fairly wilful disregard of what Mr Justice McDermott ordered yesterday and the provisions of the Children Act,” he said.
He said he would like the court to “state loud and clear” that it had unlimited powers of imprisonment and fines and let nobody be under any apprehension that they would “simply flout the orders of the court.”
This was also to be directed at individuals as they “may feel they are not doing anything wrong” by publishing material and comments.
Mr Justice White said it had been a “particularly sensitive trial.”
“Nobody should be under any illusions,” he said, that there was always an issue in relation to the protection of their identities. The orders applied to everyone and “no particular individual has any right to put any matter on any form of social media that would identify or tend to identify" the boys, Mr Justice White said.
“It is the most serious contempt in the face of the court,” he said.
He said he had no hesitation in granting an interim injunction against Facebook and Twitter ex parte, “directing them to remove forthwith from their sites any material tending to identify the two children” and “restrain any repeat” of further such information being published.
The court also made an order directing the respondents to be brought before the court to answer for the contempt of court as set out by lawyers for the DPP in relation to material published on various Twitter and Facebook accounts today, “in clear breach” of the Children Act and Mr Justice McDermott’s order.
“The court wants to make it clear in the most trenchant way that any particular individual who decides to try to identify the people who have been convicted of these crimes will himself or herself be subject to contempt of court and the matter will be treated in the most serious fashion.”
He adjourned the case to tomorrow morning.
In a statement following the hearing, Twitter said: "We have an established line of communication with An Garda Síochána and are in direct contact with them on this issue."
However, Twitter did not immediately respond to queries from Independent.ie regarding what actions it has taken to comply with the interim order of the court.
It has also yet to clarify if processes had been in place after the trial verdict with the intention of ensuring photographs of the two boys were not posted or shared.
Facebook has yet to respond to a request for comment.