Darren Hughes-Gibson, Gardaí And Facebook


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Darren Hughes-Gibson, 17, from Balbriggan, Co. Dublin, who died by suicide
in August 2012

It emerged yesterday, at the Dublin Coroner’s Court, that gardaí have launched a criminal investigation into Darren Gibson-Hughes’s death.

Darren’s mother, Elaine Hughes, believes her son was cyberbullied on Facebook before he took his life because he was mixed race and had a hearing aid. She believes threatening messages were left on his Facebook but that they were deleted after his death. She has been asking Facebook to allow Gardaí access Darren’s Facebook account for the last year.

In a previous sitting of Darren’s inquest, in June, the court heard from Garda Fergal McSharry. At the time, Gareth Naughton, in the Irish Times, reported:

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.

Mr Naughton also reported in June that:

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.”

Following yesterday’s hearing, Mr Naughton, now reports:

Updating the coroner on the gardaí’s efforts, Detective Inspector Kieran Holohan said that a criminal investigation into potential harassment is being carried out.

The investigation will provide grounds for the application to access Darren’s Facebook accounts, the court heard.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell adjourned the inquest for further mention in December.


Brian writes:

“Maybe I’m missing something but..the Facebook statement from June doesn’t appear to suggest there was any need for a criminal investigation to be under way in order for Facebook to respond to requests for information. The company’s only stipulation appears to be that the Gardaí’s request be valid and legal. Doesn’t their statement suggest the Gardaí’s request wasn’t valid? Maybe because it was via the FBI? Eitherway, doesn’t the latest news that ‘the [criminal] investigation will provide grounds for the application to access Darren’s Facebook accounts’ call into question the validity of the gardaí’s original alleged request to access Darren’s Facebook account?”


Gardaí launch criminal investigation into the death of Darren Hughes-Gibson (Gareth Naughton, Irish Times)

Related: Dead boy’s mother in plea to Facebook (June 13, 2014, Irish Times)

Mother of 17 year-old who died by suicide found ‘horrific’ and ‘threatening’ messages on his phone, inquest hears (March 3, 2014, Independent.ie)

Tragic teen ‘may have been bullied’ before his suicide (August 30, 2012, The Herald)

Pic: Independent.ie

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13 thoughts on “Darren Hughes-Gibson, Gardaí And Facebook

  1. Sidewinder

    Why is doubt immediately cast upon the gardaí and not Facebook who have a long and extensive history of poor co-operation with anybody that they won’t get money from? OP says, in apparent disbelief, that the request simply had to be “legal and valid” – two of the least specific and ambiguous they could have picked. Also the term “legal” strikes me that a warrant of some kind would be required which I doubt they’d get if there wasn’t a formal investigation underway.

    1. Jackdaw

      Same rubbish from Broadsheet. Constant presumption that it’s a Garda cock up. Incapable of having an open mind on any matter Garda related.

    2. Major Thrill

      Data protection laws aren’t the easiest thing in the world to navigate for a professional, never mind a Garda who it seems fairly safe to assume doesn’t have access to the kind of training or advice required to navigate EU data protection directives and information privacy laws in general.
      I could be wrong, possibly the Gardai have someone on call to navigate these things but even if it *is* a garda cock-up it is one I’d understand completely.

  2. fluffybiscuits

    To echo what Clampers said.

    I hope this mother finds a speedy resolution to the situation and those that bullied have some semblance of a guilty conscience.

    @Jackdaw, in BS defence the gardai have proved themselves to contain an element of corruption, ineptitude and down right stupidity.

  3. Murtles

    I think it should be another thing on a parents list when talking to a child about cyberbullying that not only should offensive or abusive messages be reported straight away but also screenshots taken of them. This empowers the victim to have evidence to hand and even when the “brave” keyboard warriors delete their messages but also the victim has instant access instead of waiting for the snail pace resolution from Facebook. Hopefully the thugs involved in this tragic case will get their come uppance.

  4. Mr. T.

    I would think you need a warrant. It’s the same as searching someone’s property. You need just cause to search the property of a person or institution and that’s usually only possible when an official investigation has been launched.

    I think the Gardaî could get a warrant from the courts to serve on Facebook in Ireland.

    1. The Bird in the Box

      But Facebook’s data is on a server in the US as far as I know… That’s where the problem lies.

  5. Eulich McGee

    This certainly points towards the Gardai not having yet established an everyday working relationship with facebook. If this is the case then it points to a shocking oversight not only because of cyber bullying but also physical crimes which are often bragged about on facebook.

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