Monday 23 April 2018

Timely message for us all: post online in haste and live to regret it at leisure

The Facebook defamation case in Donegal is merely a more dramatic version of what we're all at online

'On making the compensatory award to the Donegal couple and allowing costs for one of them, Judge James O'Donoghue summed up Downes's posts and accusations as 'scurrilous and reckless
'On making the compensatory award to the Donegal couple and allowing costs for one of them, Judge James O'Donoghue summed up Downes's posts and accusations as 'scurrilous and reckless" Photo: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

Sarah Caden

'Scurrilous and reckless" is how Judge James O'Donoghue described the Facebook posts written by Anthony Downes in February 2015. Last Tuesday, in Letterkenny Circuit Civil Court, the judge found in favour of Patricia Barnett and her husband Patrick Murphy, awarding them €30,000 in their defamation case against Downes.

Patricia Barnett, who has a podiatry business, found messages posted by Downes on both her personal and professional Facebook pages. Though Downes was a neighbour of Barnett and her husband in Co Donegal, they have said that they barely knew him and certainly could not understood why he clearly had a problem with them.

The Facebook posts referred to Barnett being overweight and that her exercise regime was doing nothing to fix this. Through the case, the couple explained that they had to explain to their 15-year-old twins what was going on. They also explained that they had met clients of the podiatry clinic, who had kept away after reading the posts.

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