Belfast Telegraph

Training in social media is urged for judiciary

By Deborah McAleese

Police and the judiciary need training on the use of social media in domestic abuse cases, a judge has said.

District Judge Barney McElholm said he was concerned that there was not a great enough understanding of social media sites like Facebook.

His comments came after he dismissed a case against a man with a history of violence against his partner who allegedly broke a non-molestation order by posting a message on one of her Facebook photographs.

Mr McElholm said this type of offence was "what is referred to now as coercive control, where the perpetrator is saying 'remember me, I'm still over your shoulder', and that is what we are trying to guard against."

However, Mr McElholm said that it was very difficult to know if the defendant had deliberately posted a comment on the photograph knowing it belonged to his ex-girlfriend, or if he had commented on it because it had appeared on a mutual friend's Facebook page.

"I really do think the judiciary need a seminar on this.

"It is also something the PSNI themselves are going to have to get their own tech people to look at, to see what can happen and what can't happen on these sites," said Mr McElholm.

He added: "I think that I have to find at this stage that the breach has not necessarily been proven."

He warned the defendant: "I would caution you, you have to be very, very careful, because if I was of the opinion you intended this contact you would be remanded into custody."

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