Calls for new laws to protect children from online predator threat

by Sylvia Pownall
There have been calls to enact new laws against online predators after the Director of Public Prosecutions told Coroner’s Court that no charges will be brought in relation to the death of 17-year-old Darren Gibson Hughes

THE mother of a teenager who took his own life after months of cyber bullying has called for new laws to protect children from online predators and trolls.

Elaine Hughes issued the plea after it emerged last week that there will be no criminal prosecution relating to the tragic death of her son Darren Gibson Hughes.

The 17-year-old was found dead at a disused warehouse in Stephenstown Industrial Estate, Balbriggan, on August 23, 2012.

He had been reported missing by his mother after he failed to return to the family’s former home at New Haven Bay in the north Dublin town the previous night.

Elaine believes Darren, who was her eldest child, was bullied because of the colour of his skin and because he wore a hearing aid.

The Director of Public Prosecutions revealed to the Coroner’s Court that, following consideration of a file containing 5,500 pages of online messages, no charges will be brought.

Ms Hughes broke down in tears as Sgt John Cannon of Lusk Garda Station informed the court of the DPP’s decision not to bring charges.

She has now called for a review of the DPP’s decision and says she wants to
see the Garda file on her son’s death.

She said: “The law needs to change. There are too many children out there who feel there is no other option. I think that Darren’s case is being dismissed, that more could be done.”

Elaine said she retrieved deleted text messages on Darren’s phone telling him to kill himself. Information provided by Facebook includes messages with inferences of harassment and bullying.

She said: “Darren was an absolute diamond of a lad. He believed these people were his friends. He was just broken. This was a sick, sadistic game and that is what cyber bullying
is.

“This has affected our entire family, we are all devastated at losing Darren. I feel let down by the justice system, but I will continue to fight as long as I have breath in my
body.

“Politicians need to wake up to the country we’re living in now or they’re going to lose an
entire generation.”

A Bill put forward by the Labour Party proposes updating the existing definitions of communication and harassment to outlaw cyberstalking, cyberbullying and revenge porn.

A full hearing of the inquest into Darren’s death is scheduled to take place in May.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123, Aware 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House 1800 247 247.

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