A CALIFORNIA prosecutor is to apply for a search warrant to access two Facebook accounts belonging to an Irish teenager who took his own life.
Darren Hughes-Gibson (17) was found hanging in the Stephenstown Industrial Estate in Balbriggan, north county Dublin, on August 23, 2012. His mother Elaine Hughes had reported him missing when he failed to return to their home at New Haven Bay in Balbriggan the previous night.
Ms Hughes has raised concerns that her son may have received threatening messages on his Facebook accounts in the weeks before he died and the messages were deleted following his death. She has previously told the Dublin coroner she believes her son, whom she described as a “happy young man”, was being bullied because he was mixed race and had a hearing aid. She has submitted text messages from Darren's phone to the court which coroner Dr Brian Farrell has described as “highly inappropriate” with a “threatening undertone”.
The inquest into Darren’s death was opened in September 2013 but has been adjourned repeatedly since then as Gardaí attempt to retrieve the Facebook messages. Those efforts were stepped up nine months ago when a criminal investigation into his death was launched.
In order to access the Facebook accounts, Gardaí have had to make an application to the US authorities via the Department of Justice and Equality. The US authorities need to be satisfied there is sufficient evidence of a potential crime before Facebook will be asked to hand over the messages.
Updating the coroner on their progress today, Detective Inspector Kieran Holohan said Gardaí received confirmation three days ago from the Californian prosecutor that an application will be made for a search warrant for both of Darren’s Facebook accounts. The period of time covered by the search warrant will be the two months prior to Darren's death.
DI Holohan said the US authorities had come back to Gardaí in April requesting further clarification with some additional statements sought and this was complied with.
There is no indication of exactly when the search warrant will be sought.
“The legal standard is seriously tight over there,” he said, “Their application will go before the judge, and subject to the view of the court, we may get some information back… Progress is being made, however slow”.
Ms Hughes was present in court along with her father and son.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell adjourned the inquest for further mention on November 27. “It is a slow process, but we are going through it,” he told the family.