Saturday 17 August 2019

Injunction against Facebook and Twitter to remain in place until Ana Kriegel's killers are sentenced

Ana Kriegel
Ana Kriegel
Remembered: Ana Kriegel
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

AN INJUNCTION ordering Facebook and Twitter to remove any photographs or posts identifying Ana Kriegel’s killers is to continue in advance of the boys' sentencing hearing, the Central Criminal Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Michael White today granted a three-week continuation of the order that 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 court heard the situation was now "stable" but the Director of Public Prosecutions was concerned that the issue "could flare up" again.

The injunction had been put in place 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 last month, 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.

This morning, Brendan Grehan SC, for the DPP told Mr Justice White the situation now was that through “everyone’s endeavours, matters are stable at the moment, but the director has very real concerns that matters could flare up again given that the sentencing process is at a particularly delicate stage.”

He said sentencing was listed for hearing on July 15.

He applied to have the proceedings against Facebook and Twitter adjourned to July 26 and for the existing orders to remain in place until then.

Rossa Fanning SC, for Facebook said an updated affidavit outlined the fact that since the last court date, the social media platform had endeavoured to “take all reasonable steps” to ensure that compliance with the trial judge’s orders had been achieved.

He was instructed by his solicitors not to oppose the application for a continuation of the order for a short period of time.

“For the record,” he said, “The DPP does appear to acknowledge that Facebook has been entirely co-operative with all requests.”

Andrew Fitzpatrick SC, for Twitter, said he had also filed an affidavit setting out the steps his clients had taken to comply with the order. Given the “sensitivity” of the case, he was also instructed not to oppose the prosecution’s application.

Lawyers for Boy A and Boy B were present for the proceedings but made no applications.

The proceedings, including allegations of contempt of court against Facebook and Twitter, were adjourned to July 26.

The initial injunction had ordered them to “"restrain any repeat" of further such material being published.

On the last day in court, Facebook and Twitter had argued they could not stop in advance what users chose to post on their platforms.

Mr Fanning 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.

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 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 said Twitter 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 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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