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Family of falsely accused man near breaking point

THE parents of a DCU student who was falsely accused of being a taxi-fare dodger in an online video have told the Sunday Independent they are "close to breaking point".

Speaking briefly at the High Court yesterday, the father of 22-year-old student Eoin McKeogh revealed the anguish behind his family's fight to clear his son's name.

Looking stressed and exhausted after a week in the High Court, Mr McKeogh said: "We are close to breaking point over this."

"This has been an absolutely horrendous situation for us. It's been a nightmare. Very stressful."

Late last year, an online video went viral showing an individual dodging a taxi fare in Dublin. The individual was referred to in the clip as 'Eoin' and Mr McKeogh was later contacted by friends to say he was being accused of fare-dodging on the internet. An entirely innocent Mr McKeogh said he was "shocked" at the allegations and took action to clear his name.

Last night, Mr Justice Michael Peart said that he would give his judgment today on whether or not the Dublin undergraduate's bid to stop newspapers from identifying him was successful.

DCU student Eoin McKeogh has proven to the court beyond all doubt that he was in Japan and not even in the country at the time of the incident.

The taxi driver in the video also appeared in court on Friday, January 13, to confirm that Eoin was not involved. He said that he was sorry it happened before shaking hands with the student.

The 22-year-old Business and Japanese student is worried that his plans to work in Japan will be damaged if any prospective employers look up his name online and link him to the incident.

Mr Keogh was granted temporary injunctions on January 11 against several internet parties, including Facebook and Google, prohibiting the re-broadcasting or re-publishing of the material which defamed him by alleging he was guilty of taxi-fare evasion.

But when a storm of online commentary followed media court reports on the case, the family moved to gag newspapers from identifying the student.

Last night, the judge asked if it was not too late to grant an order given that Mr McKeogh's name was already published.

Representing Independent Newspapers, solicitor Simon McAleese argued: "If someone goes on your land and cuts down your trees, there is no point going into court looking to put them back up again."

He added that Mr McKeogh "must have known that the court case would be properly and fairly reported".

However, Mr McKeogh's counsel, Pauline Walley, argued that the print media kept feeding the spread and discussion of the material on the internet.

She said further reporting in several newspapers last week led to a barrage of material on the internet which was offensive and alleged that Mr McKeogh was guilty.

Ms Walley told the court yesterday: "Of course it's a public interest story, but Eoin McKeogh is a completely unknown individual who no one had ever heard of before this. He is not Sean Quinn; he is not Sean Fitzpatrick; he is an ordinary kid going through college getting on with his private life, and he is entitled to do that."

She continued by saying that her client is "shocked, distressed and disappointed at the level of vitriol he and his family have been subjected to simply to (clear) his name".

Gary Compton for The Sunday Times said that what it intended to publish was a fair and accurate account of court proceedings, as, he said, it is entitled to do.

Shane English for The Star and the Irish Examiner said they could not be responsible for opinions ventured online by bloggers, who might derive some inaccurate opinion from their articles.

Rossa Fanning for Facebook said the only people responsible for the large media coverage of this case were Mr McKeogh's own lawyers.

After seven hours of sitting yesterday, the case has been adjourned until this morning when Mr Justice Peart will deliver his judgment.

Sunday Independent