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Man (27) prosecuted over obscene Bebo messages

A man has been prosecuted for putting offensive and obscene messages on social networking site Bebo in what is believed to be the first case of its kind to come before the Irish courts.

Paul Anthony Matthews (27) posted what a judge described as "outrageous" messages on a teenage girl's site on January 31 this year.

Matthews, of Carnbeg, Doylesfort Road, Dundalk, agreed to pay the victim €3,000 instead of going to jail.

The pioneering case was brought under Section 13 (I) of the Post Office Amendment Act 1951 for sending offensive or indecent material by means of telecommunication.

Matthews, a father of one, admitted posting explicit and abusive messages on the teenager's site. The victim cannot be identified because of a court order.

Dundalk District Court was told that Matthews had a previous disagreement with the then 16-year-old and posted the messages on her Bebo page. The teenager had made a complaint about Matthews to gardai regarding another matter and the Bebo messages were investigated.


Matthews was arrested and admitted when questioned that he had put up the messages on her site.

Judge Conal Gibbons said this was the first of its type he had ever had to deal with.

He was outraged by what Matthews had written about the girl "for all the world to see".

He added: "It's a shocking state of affairs that this rubbish can be put up on sites."

He was shown the messages and he said they "certainly were offensive and damaging".

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"The owners don't look at the pages and edit them. They wash their hands and say it's not their business," he said.

"It strikes me that they should take responsibility but that doesn't take away from the culpability of the defendant."

The judge praised the gardai for taking the matter seriously. He said that while most people used modern communication for positive ends, some, like Matthews, used it "to do evil".

He noted that Matthews had admitted his involvement and had pleaded guilty. He placed Matthews under the supervision of the probation service and the case was adjourned to June 3, 2009 for the compensation to be paid.

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