herald

Monday 24 June 2019

DPP to ask for deleted Facebook messages of teen boy (17) who took his own life, court hears

Darren Hughes-Gibson
Darren Hughes-Gibson
Darren Hughes Gibson

The DPP has agreed to apply to Facebook, via the US authorities, for deleted messages on the account of a teenager whose mother believes he was cyberbullied in the weeks before he took his own life, the Dublin coroner has heard.

Darren Hughes-Gibson (17) was found hanging at Stephenstown Industrial Estate in Balbriggan, north county Dublin on August 23, 2012. He had been reported missing by his mother, Elaine Hughes, when he failed to return to their home at New Haven Bay in Balbriggan the night before.

At previous sittings of Dublin Coroner’s Court, Ms Hughes has raised the issue of threatening messages which she believes were made on his Facebook account in the weeks before he died and subsequently deleted after he was found. Coroner Dr Brian Farrell asked gardaí to look into the claims and in June they told him that they had been liaising with the FBI on retrieving the messages but Facebook was not co-operating. The company issued a statement saying they respond to “valid legal requests for information” and they encourage law enforcement agencies to following their “guidelines” in taking their cases forward.

Gardaí subsequently launched a fresh investigation into Darren’s death focussing on potential harassment and a preservation order was placed on the Facebook accounts in August. It was hoped the investigation would provide grounds for the application to access the accounts.

It is understood that the US authorities will need to be satisfied there is sufficient evidence that a potential crime has been committed before Facebook will be asked to hand over the messages.

Updating the coroner on their progress, Detective Inspector Kieran Holohan said that gardaí have now completed the necessary documentation and forwarded it to the office of the director of public prosecutions. Gardaí require the agreement of the DPP to send the application to the US authorities who will then consider it. 

“Just this week we have been in touch with personnel from the DPP’s office and they are in a position where they will send the application across. It has to be processed through the DPP’s office and it goes over to the State Department in the US,” said DI Holohan.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell adjourned the inquest for further mention on March 9 next year. DI Holohan said he would notify the court if there were any developments in the meantime but warned that it is a “slow process”.

Ms Hughes has previously told the court that she believes her son was being bullied because he was mixed race and had a hearing aid. At a previous sitting she submitted text messages found on his phone which coroner Dr Brian Farrell said were “highly inappropriate” with a “threatening undertone”. Ms Hughes has said she believes her son “would still be here” were it not for the messages.

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