Court decides vulnerable man's access to social media should be restricted

Court decides vulnerable man's access to social media should be restricted

A judge has made orders restricting a vulnerable young man's access to social media after being told his misuse of it has lead to deterioration in his situation and may expose him to risk.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, also directed that the man, a ward of court aged in his early twenties and with various behavioural and personality disorders, cannot access Grindr, a gay dating website.

The man, who is detained at a specialist facility, had told care staff that a male on Grindr had sought access to him for sexual relations.

Noting the man had said he did not want a sexual relationship with men, the judge directed there should be no access to Grindr.

Mr Justice Kelly said the "greatest care" must be taken concerning the man's use of social media in the present because that had created such problems for him in the past.

He made specific orders preventing the man accessing social media between 9pm and 9am daily.

The centre would have responsibility to ensure any social media access permitted outside those hours would be reasonable, the judge said. If it was not reasonable, the man's access may be removed, he warned

The man has been detained since early this year at the specialist facility amid concerns including he had made plans, via social media, to travel to Las Vegas for a gig.

A consultant psychiatrist was of the view he lacks capacity to manage his affairs, including his financial affairs and would need ongoing support to deal with risk-taking and other behaviours.

The orders permitted the centre to detain him and manage his rehabilitation in his best interests.

The matter returned to court today when David Leahy BL, for the HSE, supported by the general solicitor for wards of court, sought orders permitting regulation of the man's access to social media.

Mr Leahy said the man had made some progress but, since he was given a smartphone by a relative last summer as a birthday present, his situation has deteriorated.

The man is "up half the night" on his smartphone and this has resulted in his not getting up some days until after 3pm and sometimes as late as 8pm, counsel said.

The man uses the phone to access the dating websites Grindr and Tinder and is in contact with people in the US and Nigeria, he said. He had told staff he was engaging in group chats with people using Snapchat, Facebook and Grindr but would not discuss the content of those.

He had disengaged with activities considered beneficial for him and was sometimes verbally abusive to staff, the court was told.

The judge said surely people who are skilled in looking after children, and who are in the place of parents, did not need a specific court direction to behave as responsible parents would.

Mr Leahy said the centre's concerns about managing the matter arose for reasons including another placement had broken down when the man's phone was taken from him.

The judge said he was "frankly shocked" such phone access was being permitted and he would have thought "common sense would apply".

Matters had clearly worsened since last summer, the man's situation and behaviour had deteriorated and he also denied he was spending a lot of time on the phone and refused to hand it up, he noted. On some occasions, he had also not taken prescribed medication.

A consultant psychiatrist had reported her opinion the man would need the protection of wardship for about another year and to remain in the centre until he learns better coping mechanisms. Otherwise, she feared he might abscond and possibly leave the country.

In the circumstances, the judge said he would make specific orders for regulation of social media access.

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