Northern Ireland

Convicted paedophile seeks damages from Facebook

Facebook

A convicted child sex offender, who won a landmark court case forcing Facebook to take down a website page monitoring paedophiles, is now seeking damages.

On Friday, Facebook was given 72 hours to take down the page 'Keeping our kids safe from predators', which had focused on paedophiles in Northern Ireland.

The man took the case after discovering that his photograph and threatening comments were posted on the page.

Facebook complied with the order, but a similar page appeared within hours.

The High Court judge who ordered the removal of the original page, Mr Justice McCloskey, held that the contents of the original version amounted to prima facie harassment of the man and risked infringing his human rights.

Catalogue of crimes

While the judge granted anonymity to the sex offender, he also stressed that the ruling does not suppress information about him or his criminal record that is already in the public domain.

A detailed written version of the judge's verdict discloses further details about the man's catalogue of crimes.

Known only as XY, the man at the centre of the case has a total of 15 convictions for sexual offences, all of which were committed in the 1980s.

He was released after serving half his prison sentence, only to be detained for a further six months for breaching a condition of his licence.

The judge who sentenced him reportedly expressed particular concern about his lack of insight into his offending.

Right to privacy

It has also been confirmed that he first offended when he was still a juvenile.

When he issued the proceedings against Facebook, the man claimed harassment, misuse of private information, and a breach of his right to privacy and freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment.

Mr Justice McCloskey's written judgment discloses that one of the remedies being sought is a claim for damages against Facebook Ireland Ltd.

That issue has not been determined, with the ruling only on interim relief.

The court heard the man suffers from ill health and fears being attacked or burnt out of his home.

In a statement filed as part of his case he said: "I am in fear for my safety and in a state of constant anxiety as I believe if this material continues to be published it will only be a matter of time before the threats materialise into an attack on me or my home.

Hatred

"The defendants are publishing comments intended to vilify me, some of which are directly threatening.

"By publishing this material about me, the defendants are providing a vehicle for others who may have criminal intent to gain information about where I live and to stir up hatred against me."

Mr Justice McCloskey ruled in his favour after balancing the competing rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

He pointed out that the interim injunction would cause minimal disruption to Facebook.

The judge added that details about the man's name, physical appearance, criminal record and whereabouts were already in the public domain.

"This information will remain in the public domain, come what may," he said.

"The order of this court does not suppress publication of this information in any way.

Online bullying

"Rather, it simply requires certain modest steps to be taken by the operator of a social networking site to ensure that, pending the substantive trial of this action, the plaintiff is not exposed to further conduct which I consider, to a high level of arguability, to be unlawful."

The judge also emphasised that cases of this type will be "intensely fact-sensitive".

He said: "The court is mindful of the contemporary controversy surrounding other contexts, such as online bullying of schoolchildren and the potentially appalling consequences of this gravely worrying phenomenon.

"This judgement does not speak directly to other contexts. Rather, it is confined to the particular litigation context in which is it provided."

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