A mother and her young son, who was placed in foster care more than three years ago, have secured €40,000 in settlement of defamation and privacy proceedings against the HSE over social media postings by the son’s foster parents.
The mother alleged the foster parents defamed her via Facebook postings. It was also alleged that the privacy of both mother and child, who is back in his birth mother’s care, was breached by the same posts.
The woman and child now reside together outside of the jurisdiction. Neither can be identified for legal reasons.
It was claimed that, some four years ago, the child was subject to care orders made by a District Court judge and was placed by the HSE in the care of foster parents.
It was claimed the foster parents put up a number of Facebook posts containing details of the child, including pictures, in early 2012.
It was also alleged the posts contained statements that were false, untrue and highly defamatory of the child’s birth mother.
It was claimed that the pictures and the information contained in the posts should never have been put up on social media, and involved a breach of privacy, confidence and statutory duty by the HSE.
As a result of the posts, the woman claimed she was subject to ridicule and contempt and her character had been damaged.
Rights to privacy
The mother and son also claimed the rights to privacy under the Constitution and that the European Convention on Human Rights had been breached in this instance.
It was alleged that the HSE was negligent because it failed to ensure the foster parents received adequate, or any, training concerning the use of social media or in respect of entitlement to privacy.
It was also alleged that the HSE failed to have a policy for foster parents concerning the use of social media websites.
The case came before Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court, who, following an application by Brendan Kirwan BL for the woman and her son, approved the settlement.
Counsel said the settlement of €40,000, exclusive of legal costs, was “a global offer” in relation to the claims brought by both his clients.