Northern Ireland

Legal bid to find who posted Facebook threats against Catholic

A flag protest was held in east Belfast during Monday night's snow
Image caption A flag protest in east Belfast during heavy snow

Legal attempts will be made to find out who threatened a Catholic man on Facebook pages linked to union flag protests, the High Court has heard.

The man's lawyers are seeking to discover who posted comments on two pages: Loyalists against Short Strand and Loyalist Peaceful Protests Updater.

The pages were removed last week after the man was granted an emergency injunction against Facebook.

This was due to the perceived gravity of the threat.

The judge said he had granted the man's application because of "an imminent risk of serious injury".

In court on Monday, a lawyer for Facebook Ireland Ltd said that suspending the pages concerned has taken the urgency out of the case.

But he reserved his client's position on whether the final remedy should be shutting down the pages or just removing the offending content. He said Facebook took the view that primary responsibility rested with those who posted content and operated the pages.

Loyalist protests have been ongoing since Belfast City Council voted on 3 December to restrict the flying of the union flag to designated days only.

It is the second time that the social media operator has come before the High Court in the last three months.

In November a convicted child sex offender won a landmark case forcing Facebook to take down a page monitoring paedophiles in Northern Ireland.

He is now seeking damages in an action due to be heard in March. This latest case will now be transferred to the judge handling those proceedings.

Meanwhile, a man accused of shoving a wheelie bin at police during trouble in east Belfast linked to the flags protests has been refused bail in court on Monday.

Malcolm Stevenson, 46, of Templemore Street, Belfast, denies a charge of rioting in the Newtownards Road area on 7 January.

The High Court was told that loyalist rioters attacked police vehicles with hatchets, knives and sledgehammers and petrol bombs were thrown during the trouble.

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