The late Ana Kriegel
A judge has said that a mother-of-two who identified one of the boys convicted of murdering Ana Kriégel on her Facebook page showed “utter contempt” for the law.
In June 2019, Hazel Fitzpatrick (25) posted a screenshot of a photo that identified Boy A on the day after both juveniles were convicted of murdering Ana Kriégel in May 2018.
Fitzpatrick, who has no other criminal convictions, told gardaí that she thought it was “wrong they are protected when she [Ana Kriégel] was not protected”.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that there was no premeditation, that Fitzpatrick acted out of “pure anger” and that at the time she had become “almost reliant and addicted to social media”. She later described her action as “the biggest mistake she has ever made in her life”.
Fitzpatrick of Easton Green, Easton Road, Leixlip, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty to contravention of the Children Act 2001 within the state on or about June 19, 2019.
Sergeant David O'Neil told Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting, that on the day after two juveniles referred to in media reports as Boy A and Boy B were convicted of the murder of Ana Kriégel in June 2019, a picture identifying Boy A was published on the Facebook account of the accused.
The court heard this post contained a picture of the boy, as well as the words “Name and shame the c*nts” and that justice was served but they should not be allowed to see daylight again.
The post also called the two convicted juveniles “sickos” and said that everyone should see who “did it”.
Sgt O'Neil said the presiding judge of the murder trial had made an order that nothing could be published that would identify or tend to identify the two convicted juveniles. He said the trial and this order was extensively reported by media outlets.
Sentencing her this week, Judge Karen O'Connor said there has to a deterrent element in respect of people who use social media “in utter and blatant breach” of a court order.
She said Fitzpatrick knew about the court order and knew what she was doing was wrong, but had made a decision that she did not agree with the court order.
“Such utter contempt for the law must have consequences,” she said. She said she could not accept a defence submission to defer sentence under section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.
She set a headline sentence of 12 months imprisonment but reduced this to eight months which she suspended on condition Fitzpatrick keep the peace for that period. She noted Fitzpatrick is deemed to be at a low risk of reoffending and that she is a person of previous good character.
She also noted Fitzpatrick was fully co-operative with the garda investigation and pleaded guilty at a very early stage. She said that at the time of the offending Fitzpatrick was suffering from anxiety and depression.
During a previous hearing, the court heard that snapshots of certain posts made on social media sites were brought to the attention of gardaí, including the post made by Fitzpatrick. Gardaí were satisfied the image shared was a clear breach of the order and identified the accused's address.
The sergeant said that when gardaí attended at her address in July 2019, Fitzpatrick said she had been expecting them, invited them into her home and agreed to an interview, stating that she had nothing to hide.
In interview with gardaí, Fitzpatrick said she had followed the case online, that people were talking about it and she was from the locality. She said she was also a mother and this formed a part of her interest in the case.
Fitzpatrick told gardaí she could not understand how two juveniles could do something like that. She said she had heard about the judge's order and that people could be brought to court and fined.
She admitted to sharing the material on Facebook, saying she had copied the photo from someone else's page and then shared it. She said she took it down two or three minutes later because people were texting her.
When asked by gardaí why she had shared the photo, Fitzpatrick said she questioned why the boys were being “hidden” when their actions were not the actions of juveniles and that the girl did not get a say in anything.
Fitzpatrick said she thought it is “wrong they are protected when she [Ana Kriégel] was not protected”. She said she was sorry for the boys' families, but was not sorry for them.
The court heard that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) initially directed a summary disposal in the District Court and that jurisdiction was accepted by a District Court judge, only to later be refused by another judge.
Sgt O'Neil agreed with Kevin Roche BL, defending, that his client posted a screenshot of a photo and she was not the original person who uploaded the photo to Facebook.
He agreed with counsel that there was no premeditation, that it happened out of “pure anger” and his client was not part of “a greater conspiracy” to pervert the course of justice. He agreed her admissions were important as the case would have been very difficult to prove otherwise.
The sergeant agreed Fitzpatrick was previously of exceptional character who was suffering from anxiety and depression at time. He agreed he did not expect to see her come to garda attention again.
Mr Roche said his client was suffering from post-natal depression at the time of the offence. He said she became “almost reliant and addicted to social media”, particularly Facebook.
Counsel said that anger within his client's local community led her to make a mistake that is going to follow her around for the rest of her life. He said his client knew her actions were illegal, but did not fully ascertain their severity.
He said the offending behaviour was “spontaneous” and represented an “utterly misguided foray into criminality”. He said she describes the offence as “the biggest mistake she has ever made in her life”.
Mr Roche said a report from the Probation Service describes his client as being at a low-risk of reoffending. He said his client has two small children.
Counsel asked the court to consider utilising Section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006. This section allows the court to impose a fine and defer the passing of a sentence of imprisonment for the offence.
At the earlier hearing, Judge O'Connor remanded Fitzpatrick on continuing bail and adjourned the matter for finalisation to today, November 18.
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