Ex-boyfriend avoids jail for posting offensive update on woman's Facebook account

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Law & order, Privacy, Security threats, Social networks

Smartphone. Image courtesy of ShutterstockAn Irish man was fined after admitting to posting an "I'm a whore" open to "any offers" update on Facebook via his ex-girlfriend's phone and account.

The 30-year-old Donegal man pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal damage - to the woman's social media account - at the Central Criminal Court.

The court heard that the woman had remained friends with the man after their relationship ended in January 2011.

Four months after the breakup, he went to her home in the early hours of 6 April 2011, took her phone, snooped through her text messages, and confirmed that she was in a new relationship.

After the man left her house, the woman realised that he'd taken her phone with him.

Using her phone, he logged into her Facebook account and posted the offensive status updates in her name.

The man was arrested shortly after he made the post, admitted to making it, and said he did it because he was angry about the woman’s new partner.

According to the Irish Times, the case - prosecution for damaging a social media account - is the first of its kind.

The man was charged under the Criminal Damage Act 1991, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a €10,000 (£7,975, $13,680) fine.

The judge, Justice Garrett Sheehan, wasn't sure how to assess the damage, given that nothing had physically been broken.

The prosecution suggested that the offence was closer to harassment than criminal damage, given that the harm was to the woman's reputation, as opposed to something that could be measured monetarily.

Without precedence to guide him, the judge said that the offence was reprehensible and had seriously damaged the woman’s good name, but the post was “fortunately” spotted quickly and taken down.

The judge opted to let the man off with no jail time - just a €2,000 (£1,595, $2,736) fine.

Did the punishment fit the crime?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below what would be an appropriate punishment for someone who acts in this most specifically jerky manner.

Image of smartphone courtesy of Shutterstock.

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24 Responses to Ex-boyfriend avoids jail for posting offensive update on woman's Facebook account

  1. Michelle · 60 days ago

    Wonderful. he breaks into her house, steals her phone and slanders her but it's ok because the post was caught in time.

    • Joe · 60 days ago

      I know right, why not any charges for breaking and entering or theft of property?

      • Anonymous · 60 days ago

        what's not reported here is that he didn't break in, they met up and talked; while there he figured out that she had a new partner, and got upset. He took her phone and posted the comments.

        • Stace · 58 days ago

          Ok, so he didn't break in; he still stole her phone. A few days in jail might teach him some manners.

  2. Logy · 60 days ago

    I'd assume he wasn't invited into her house... In the United States, that's called breaking and entering. Where does that charge fit in, or was he invited into the house?

    • Mike · 60 days ago

      The article claims they "remained friends", so it's entirely plausible he was there with her knowledge. The article's detail is poor, but there is suggestion that she was home when he left.

  3. Ivor Massey-Vaas · 60 days ago

    In this case I think justice was done. So long as he actually pays the fine. She could have received some compensation from him as well though.

  4. LonerVamp · 60 days ago

    Seems fine enough for me. If he had found out about the relationship another way and decided to graffiti a downtown wall with her name and that message, what would his fine be?

    And while this may damage her reputation, is the social media account owned and belonging to the lady? Or is it owned by Facebook? I would only ask due to the, "damaging a social media account," phrasing of the case. It does seem more like harassment than anything else.

  5. TonyG · 60 days ago

    Seems like the judge used common sense and made it appropriate. The guy will have his reputation suitably tarnished and a significant cost. Anyone reading the message before it was taken down would have realised it was a hack, so the woman's reputation would not have suffered too much (I am not condoning his action, just pointing out that I hope most people would realise that it was highly unlikely that anyone would have written that about themselves).

    So without a precedent to go on, the punishment is high enough to be a deterrent, roughly fits the crime and doesn't fill up the jails unnecessarily. Justice is never perfect, but it seems about the right balance to me.

  6. befuddled · 60 days ago

    And is leaving your phone open to anyone to use (without a passcode) a responsible thing to do? "Here, write whatever you want"..

  7. Jim · 60 days ago

    From the criminal side of things, it was probably a plea-bargain (or the Irish equivalent).

    In the US, though, she would still be allowed to file a civil suit against him for the damage to her reputation. I have no knowledge of whether that type of thing exists in Ireland (or the EU for that matter).

  8. DdB · 60 days ago

    Not enough info.
    ie Does breaking into her home mean they are next door neighbours and known each other since birth - like most of the lovely people in Ireland - and was popping in after milking the cows...
    Careful this site doesn't become a Daily Mail !
    Do love the site tho and esp Lisa's posts :)

  9. etMoi · 60 days ago

    If he posted publicly he also put her in danger. Thats what I would be more concerned about.

  10. I understand we're facing two offenses here. The first one, the lady's house break-in, the man probably brute-forced to enter, and the second one, diffamation. The last one, although not good, I think is almost like painting a grafitti on a street wall or a public bathroom, so ... as other poster already said, what his fine should be for this last thing?

    • Perplexed. · 60 days ago

      As far as I am aware, he did not break into her house.
      Although they were no long in a relationship, they were still friendly.
      Prior to this case, the man had been charged with her rape but a jury found him not guilty. Due to the Not Guilty verdict on the Rape charge, the man could not be named.
      The woman only discovered the postings on Facebook when she was informed of same by some female friends.
      Due to the vile nature of the postings and the fact that they purported to be from the woman herself she therefore suffered considerable embarrassment and humiliation.

    • 4caster · 58 days ago

      There is no evidence he broke in. If he had broken in, the would have been charged with that.

  11. Nick · 60 days ago

    Yeah, B&E, stealing her phone (Larceny), and then slander. Criminally charge him with the first two, let her decide if she wants to go after him in civil court for the third.

  12. Shadow · 60 days ago

    The OP says she remained friends with the ex, so he may have not broken into the house, they may have been going somewhere (carpool, meet-up with others, etc.). It DOES say he took her phone from the home, so theft/burglary is certain at that point. He snooped AFTER he took the phone.

    He may have already known her password for the phone (if she had one).

  13. Gary · 60 days ago

    Everyone that is posting about Breaking and Entering needs to read the article again. It says that he "he went to her home in the early hours of 6 April 2011" and "After the man left her house, the woman realised that he'd taken her phone with him." These statements in no way state that be broke in, but imply that she knew he was in the house and probably invited him in, since she knew when he left. Since they had remained friends after breaking off the relationship, it wouldn't be unusual for a friend to stop by at 8:30 in the morning and have a cup of coffee, and then he nabbed her phone when he saw the opportunity.

    Since he was arrested shortly after making the posts, she knew that he was the most likely person to check had the phone, as the police didn't have to search for days or weeks to find it.

    • The early hours of the morning are roughly 0100 to 0500, not 8.30 when most people are either at work or getting ready to face their normal day.

  14. Rico Robbins · 60 days ago

    Illegal entry? Yes. Harrassment? Yes. Theft? I'll even give you that. Criminal Damage? No. Does the punishment fit the crime? No, but jail time would be a bit too harsh, especially if it was at the maximum sentence. Just because rage is filled in you because of the act that he did was wrong done does not mean that a strong punishment is necessary. Nothing physically got hurt, and nothing physically got damaged. That's not to say that no one got hurt and nothing got damaged. The judge got the concept right, but did not put on a harsh enough fine. I would say that $2000 covers the harassment part, but what about the theft? The illegal entry? That should make the actual fine at least doubled.

    Also keep in mind that this post was made by physically gaining access to her phone. Would the crime be more egregious if he made the post by hacking or even stealing her Facebook password? I think so, but this was not the case!

  15. wac · 60 days ago

    Well he just posted the truth about what she was. So there is no offense.

    • Stace · 58 days ago

      shakes head...The words spoken by every man who is dumped

  16. Richard P · 53 days ago

    Why a fine (which does not benefit the victim) rather than a similar amount in compensation (which does benefit the victim)?

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.