Teen sex offender in Facebook legal challenge

A teenager in Northern Ireland convicted of sexual assault has failed in a legal bid to secure a wider ban on Facebook commentary about the case.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 18th December 2020, 6:05 pm
Facebook
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He is suing the social media giant for alleged breach of privacy over postings on its site.

But a High Court judge today refused to extend the terms of an interim injunction previously obtained to have content taken down.

Instead, Mr Justice Huddleston granted an application by Facebook which could lead to the reinstatement of a limited posting made by the teenager’s victim.

He said: I have concluded that he cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to matters which rightly were a matter of public record and comment.”

Granted anonymity and referred to as FB1, he is seeking damages against the company. He was charged with sexual offences, including rape, over an incident in 2016 when he was a minor.

But by the time of his Crown Court trial last year he had turned 18. He pleaded guilty to sexual assault and was given two years probation and community service.

Immediately after the criminal proceedings finished postings and commentary appeared on Facebook.

Seeking to extend an interim order for the content’s removal, his lawyer contended that he had a right not to be described as a “rapist”

His victim, who made one posting, argued it was lawful and should be reinstated.

Mr Justice Huddleston pointed out that her comments were a direct response to an initial post by FB1’s mother and sister.

FB1 had not established a reasonable expectation of privacy required to have all the content removed, he held.

“The allegations of rape, to which he now objects were in fact part of the charges which he faced in the Crown Court and so were a matter of public record,” he said.

According to the judge the accusations made against the teenager were widely known about in his own community.

He also found that FB1 failed in his duty of candour by not stating in his original affidavit that the victim’s comments were in response to the Facebook posts by his family.

“The plaintiff fails at the first hurdle in his application for an extension,” he ruled.

Although he refused to lift the entire injunction, the judge confirmed: “I will accede to the defendant’s application for a variation to the interim orders on the matters sought.”