Dead boy’s mother in plea to Facebook

Inquest hears media site is refusing to hand over messages sent to teenager

A mother who believes her teenage son took his own life after being cyberbullied has pleaded with Facebook to show compassion by releasing records to the Dublin coroner.

Elaine Hughes made the plea after gardaí told coroner Dr Brian Farrell that attempts to retrieve messages sent to 17-year-old Darren Hughes-Gibson on the social networking site had failed because Facebook would not co-operate.

Darren was found dead at Stephenstown Industrial Estate in Balbriggan, Dublin, on August 23rd, 2012. He had been reported missing by Ms Hughes when he failed to return to their home at New Haven Bay in Balbriggan the previous night.

On the first day of the inquest held in September last year, Ms Hughes told the court that Darren may have received threatening messages on Facebook before his death which were subsequently deleted.

‘Horrific’ texts

The inquest had been adjourned a number of times so gardaí could request copies of the messages from Facebook. In the intervening period, Ms Hughes also found texts on Darren’s phone, submitted to the court, which she described as “horrific” and “threatening”.

Dr Farrell said yesterday he had reviewed the text messages and agreed they were “highly inappropriate” and some had a “threatening undertone”.

Garda Fergal McSharry told the court yesterday they had been liaising with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the US on retrieving the messages from Facebook.

“Headquarters here in the Phoenix Park got on to the FBI who got on to Facebook . . . and Facebook have not co-operated with them,” he said.

Garda McSharry also told the court the Director of Public Prosecution had revisited the matter and directions had come back there would be no prosecution. “No offence has been disclosed,” he said.

‘Hearsay evidence’

When asked by Ms Hughes if the people who sent the messages had been interviewed by gardaí, he said they had not.

“The problem is: what do we arrest them for? There is a lot of hearsay evidence. That is the difficulty that the DPP has the issue with, I think. What do we arrest them for and, if they are arrested, what are they subsequently charged with? That seems to be where it is falling down,” he said.

Ms Hughes said she believed that if everything had gone to the DPP including the Facebook messages “it would be a different story”.

Dr Farrell said he would write to Facebook requesting the records but warned the family they should not be “over optimistic” he would be successful.

He adjourned the inquest until September 22nd.

A Facebook spokesperson, when contacted after yesterday’s hearing, said: “Facebook’s law enforcement team works closely with agencies around the world. We respond to valid legal requests for information and encourage law enforcement agencies to follow our guidelines to help take their cases forward.”