Facebook posts about sex offender heard

Published Wednesday, 28 November 2012
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A convicted sex offender taking legal action in a bid to force Facebook to close a page that 'names and shames' paedophiles has become the subject of further online threats since proceedings began.

Facebook posts about sex offender heard
The case is being heard at the High Court in Belfast. (© UTV)

On Wednesday, the High Court in Belfast heard comments which have been made on the social networking website since details of the case were disclosed.

The man, who cannot be named, is seeking an injunction amid fears he could be attacked because of vitriolic comments published on the page.

He also wants to establish the identity of those who set up and run the page - where he found his photo published alongside threatening comments, following his release from prison on licence.

Facebook has since removed the photo and related comments.

But on Wednesday, presiding judge Mr Justice McCloskey heard some of the comments made this week alone.

One post read: "So the man, or I mean mess of a human being, that's taken this page to court, he must want to be the head paedophile and rule over all sex offenders. He will be like a god to them."

Another added: "Put him down like an animal."

The risk, the plaintiff would say, is that this sort of vitriol will translate into physical action of some type - either against the plaintiff personally or against him and his property.

Julie Ellison, XY's barrister

According to the plaintiff's barrister, Julie Ellison, another commenter claimed to know a way around the ban on identifying her client - who has been identified only as XY in court.

"There is a real risk, we say, that it will facilitate people to come together or to obtain information - maybe through a private message facility - to find out where he lives and those with criminal intent will carry out some sort of reprisal attack on the plaintiff or his property," Ms Ellison told the court.

But a lawyer for Facebook Ireland Ltd argued that removing the page, now that the plaintiff's photo and personal details have been removed, was neither necessary nor proportionate.

"Will it give the plaintiff any benefit to shut down this site and deprive 4,000 users of their freedom of expression, the vast amount of which is legitimate debate on sex offenders?" Peter Hopkins said.

The convicted sex offender at the centre of the case is claiming harassment, misuse of private information, and a breach of his human rights.

After hearing both sides, Mr Justice McCloskey asked for a list of any allegedly threatening or relevant comments before deciding whether to grant the order sought.

He said: "It's for the plaintiff to choose his targets and formulate his case accordingly."

The case continues.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Rab in Belfast wrote (792 days ago):
Isn't it somewhat ironic that a convicted sex offender turns crying to the law to protect him when if he'd stayed on the side of the law in the first place he wouldn't have anything to worry about?! Not that I'm condoning what's going on on Facebook....
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