In Byrne v DPP (2010) 1 EHC 382 the Irish High Court held that it was not part of the function of the DPP to surf the internet in order to find and deal with any information on an accused facing a criminal trial. The material on the applicant did not suggest he was guilty of the crime with which he was charged and there was no risk of an unfair trial. His application that the DPP should seek out and have removed information on him published on the internet was refused.
The applicant is a former Securicor employee, facing charges in connection with the extortion of money from a Securicor employee through the kidnapping of his family in March 2005. In April 2009, a jury was empanelled to try the applicant along with others. There was a lot of media coverage of the crime and the subsequent trial. In May, the trial judge had his attention drawn to material on newspaper websites relating to the bail hearings concerning some of the accused men, and he ordered this material to be removed. However, the Judge said that it was not the duty of the DPP to sweep the internet and engage in correspondence with local and foreign internet service providers with a view to cleansing cyberspace of any potential reference to an accused person. Judges should warn jurors that they should not surf the internet in relation to any participant in a case.
James Goudie QC