“Before I go on … I should say that anyone who uses Facebook does so at his or her peril”.

26 July 2013

Ook

Martin and others -v- Gabriele Giambrone practicing as, Giambrone & Law Solicitors and European Lawyers

“Before I go on … I should say that anyone who uses Facebook does so at his or her peril”.

These are the words of the Honourable Mr Justice Horner, in dealing with a request to use Facebook comments in the plaintiffs separate legal proceedings which involved a Mareva Injunction. The Mareva Injunction restricts the defendant from dissipating his assets and relates to proceedings involving failed investments made through the defendant, Gabriele Giambrone practicing as their lawyer, Giambrone & Law Solicitors and European Lawyers.

Following a High Court hearing the defendant posted on his Facebook site the following comments:

“They thought they knocked me down, now they will see the full scale of my reaction. F*** them, just f*** them. They will be left with nothing.”

The plaintiffs were asking Mr Justice Horner if they could rely upon the Facebook posts during the course of their separate legal proceedings against the defendant and the latter was objecting to its use and objecting to the comments being put before the Judge dealing with the Mareva Injunction. 

The defendant claimed that use of the comments would breach his confidence as his Facebook site is restricted to communications to his friends only and that the material was private. 

The Court held that the comments were relevant and could be disclosed and shared with the trial Judge and any Judge dealing with the Mareva Injunction.

The court was not presented with any evidence as to how many friends the defendant had and what his relationship was with each of them. Neither did the defendant suggest that those friends were in any way restricted as to how they used any information given to them by the defendant. The court concluded that the information viewed by the defendant’s friends would not have been considered by them as confidential. Furthermore, no evidence was adduced to suggest the information received by the plaintiffs would have been known to them as confidential or private. Finally, the court did not consider that Article 8 rights of the European Convention had been engaged.

Mr Justice Horner noted: 

“Before I go on … I should say that anyone who uses Facebook does so at his or her peril. There is no guarantee that any comments posted to be viewed by friends will only be seen by those friends. Furthermore it is difficult to see how information can remain confidential if a Facebook user shares it with all his friends and yet no control is placed on the further dissemination of that information by those friends.”

This judgment illustrates the implications of using social media sites.  It highlights the fact that it is not only the media who may rely upon what you have published online but so too can the Courts. 

For more information please contact Olivia O'Kane.

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