Sex offender in Facebook court challenge

High Court, Belfast

A convicted sex offender has launched a legal bid to force Facebook to remove a page set up to monitor paedophiles in Northern Ireland.

The man, who cannot be identified, is also seeking an injunction to stop his photograph and details from appearing on the social networking site.

He claims the case is urgent because he is at real and immediate risk.

Proceedings were brought before the High Court over the Facebook page, 'Keeping our kids safe from predators'.

The man, known only as XY, as he was granted anonymity in court, is currently out on licence after serving a prison sentence for sexual offences.

Following his release he discovered his photo and threatening comments had been posted online.

The judge hearing the case, Mr Justice McCloskey, said: "He deposes to fear and anxiety. He avers that there is a marked change of attitude on the part of his neighbours."

The man, who said he was in poor health, wants Facebook Ireland Ltd to terminate the accounts of anyone operating the page.

His lawyers argue that the company should also be restrained from permitting those responsible from publishing, distributing, broadcasting or disseminating any further information about him on the site.

Monitor

Human rights legislation dealing with privacy and inhumane and degrading treatment is intrinsic to the case.

Facebook has already removed the man's photograph and comments made about him. A lawyer for the company argued that the further relief being sought was neither necessary nor proportionate.

But counsel for the plaintiff confirmed he still wanted the entire page removed. She said the litigation would also try to identify the "mischief makers" before deciding how to proceed against them.

"The case we are making is that Facebook should undertake to monitor," she said.

"The plaintiff recognises that is somewhat onerous, but we would seek a final injunction with regard to that."

Mr Justice McCloskey will hear full arguments from both sides in court in Belfast later this week.

"The court, in consideration and determination of a case of this kind, will obviously have at the forefront of its mind the operation of well-established laws including the law of defamation and the provisions of the Human Rights Act," he said.

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