Belfast man in court over offensive Manchester bomb Facebook message

Belfast man Kevin O'Neill, aged 19, who is alleged to have posted material described as "grossly offensive" on Facebook about the bomb in Manchester that killed 22 adults and children, has appeared in court to hear the charge against him.

The alleged comments were posted in the wake of the atrocity in Manchester on 22nd May 2017 when a suicide bomber attacked fans leaving an Ariana Grande pop concert in Manchester Arena. Mr O'Neill was arrested under the Malicious Communications Act and attended Belfast Magistrates' Court to hear the charge against him of improper use of a public electronic communications network. The accused spoke only to confirm he understood the charge against him and his solicitor has requested a 2 week adjournment to consider the papers received. Mr O'Neill was released on continuing bail until he returns to court on 3rd July.

The case highlights once again the changing landscape of social media, which initially arrived as an unregulated, largely un-monitored system of communication. Social media has now evolved to become a highly commercialised tool, which is both a news source and often the subject material for news. It is closely monitored and reported against for both its' commercial opportunities and to provide news content, and as such there is a much greater chance that offensive content will be reach a wider audience. That increases the ability of police to prosecute crimes under the Malicious Communications Act.

Social media was once considered the online version of having a chat with your friend at the pub, but it has evolved beyond that. The lesson for all social media users is that you are very rarely just posting a message for your 'friends' to see, and you should be mindful of how the content would be received by a wider audience.

If you require legal advice in respect of material posted on social media, including issues such as defamation of character, libel or crimes covered under the Malicious Communications Act, contact Wilson Nesbitt solicitors in Belfast or Bangor for advice by clicking here.