Lawyers claim man’s legal entitlement to anonymity breached by Google

Lawyers claim man's legal entitlement to anonymity breached by Google

Lawyers for a man acquitted of rape last year have told a court that his legal entitlement to anonymity is being breached by Google search results of his name.

Mícheál O’Higgins SC told Mr Justice Michael White that when his client’s name is placed into the Google search engine the results include links to reports of rape trials.

He said it is really odd that while his client is not named in any of the articles, they appear “juxtaposed” with his name in the search results page. He said the results include links to court reports of the man’s 2018 trial and links to two other rape trials unrelated to his client.

He said there is no issue with the newspaper articles, which do not identify anyone.

“The really odd aspect is that my client’s name is put into a search engine, and then connected to rape trials in which he is not named in any of those articles.

“They [Google] are providing a list of rape trials juxtapositioned [sic] against his name. My client’s cloak of anonymity has been whisked away in the blink of an eye,” counsel said.

Mr O’Higgins said that it might be that his client’s name was mentioned on some public forum like Facebook or Twitter in connection with the rape allegations.

He said the search results are in breach of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981, which makes it an offence to publish anything that would tend to identify a person accused of a rape offence unless he is convicted.

He told the court his client is seeking a block on all Google searches of his name, on at least a short-term basis. Counsel said his client’s ability to seek employment is stymied by these search results.

Rossa Fanning SC, for Google Ireland Ltd, told the court that the company has offered to take down any link which appears on Google alongside the man’s name. He said “it would appear that actually the problem has being resolved” and that most of the sources have being taken down.

He said the search results are automatically generated and the plaintiff is seeking to impose a monitoring obligation on Google which is contrary to law.

Mr Justice White, sitting in the Central Criminal Court on Wednesday, said he had some experience of the issues around the right to be forgotten from a previous judgement he was in.

He ordered that the applicant issue a plenary summons and statement of claim by today and set a deadline of 12 August for a replying affidavit from Google.

Declan Brennan, CCC.nuacht

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