Friday, 3 Feb 2023

Gardaí to search for motorists who took pictures of fatal crash while behind wheel

Gardaí will trawl through CCTV footage on the M50 in a bid to find the identity of individuals who took photos or videos of the immediate aftermath of a fatal crash which claimed the life of a young woman.

Gardaí are investigating whether the individuals were behind the wheel at the time.

There has been outcry after distressing imagery of the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s crash, which claimed the life of Dublin woman Jackie Griffin, was circulated on social media.

A Garda spokesman said that traffic was backed up at the scene for hours with many people taking pictures.

Prosecutions would be possible for drivers who were holding phones while at the wheel.

It is also believed that people may have left their vehicles to take images, even though it is illegal to stop a car on a motorway other than in an emergency. It’s understood Ms Griffin, a driver for courier company ‘Nightline’, was working when the tragedy occurred.

“We are checking in relation to vehicles that may have stopped on the M50 unnecessarily when gardaí were dealing with the crash,” a Garda spokesperson said.

“Please be advised that motorists are permitted to stop on the M50 in an emergency only.

“We will be checking in relation to any motorists who may have been driving their vehicle past the scene and holding a phone and filming or taking photographs of the scene.”

Gardaí have again appealed to the public to refrain from sharing the images, asking people to “be conscious that it affects family and friends of the deceased and all persons involved in the collision”.

There is precedent for this type of behaviour being investigated by gardaí.

Last year a truck overturned on the M50 and approximately 20 people who drove past were found to have filmed the scene.

They were later identified and issued fixed charge penalty notices, as well as penalty points.

However, it is not believed that the circulation of the images in itself is a criminal offence.

Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy has called for regulations to prevent content like this being shared online.

“This week alone, family and friends who have to come to terms with the loss of a loved one should not have to hear that voyeurs are sending images through WhatsApp,” he said.

“We must have modern rules and regulations for social media that respect human decency and the privacy of other individuals.

“If traditional media can abide by this and have socially accepted boundaries in which they operate while still providing all with a public service, social media companies must also.”

His comments came just days after WhatsApp introduced new rules limiting the number of chats that a WhatsApp user can forward a message or photo to.

The owner of WhatsApp, Facebook, said that it promptly stopped images and videos of the crash being uploaded on the Facebook platform as soon as they became aware of the incident.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he is “very concerned” at the graphic content of the crash being shared online.

“Issues in relation to this type of content and online safety issues in general are relatively new and it is challenging for all governments to be ahead of the curve in terms of responding effectively,” a Dept of Justice spokesperson said.

“That is why the Government has published a National Action Plan for Online Safety.”

Meanwhile, friends of Ms Griffin urged people to refrain from sharing the images.

Declan McGregor, who knew the woman for 20 years, described her as “a gem” and his “totally beloved friend”.

“She was simply an amazing person; a joyous soul and I can tell you all a real angel in life.

“The lowlife who took those images of her in death and so insensitively shared them to the world has no idea the added utter horror they have inflicted on all those who loved her at this already devastating time,” he added.

Minister Shane Ross described the sharing of images from Thursday’s tragedy as “unforgivable”.

“Road collisions are deeply distressing experiences for all concerned.

“The actions of a few extremely irresponsible people made yesterday’s events much worse.

“I appeal to all decent people, If you receive such images and are tempted to forward them on, just stop for a minute and think about the distress you are causing to the families involved.”

Gaelic football star Philly McMahon also slammed the photos circulating online of the incident.

He tweeted: “It’s an absolute disgrace that someone in their right mind thinks it’s OK to take pictures and videos of another human being after a horrific accident.”

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