Two students prosecuted for hacking and defacing Fine Gael’s 2011 election website have been spared jail sentences by Judge Ann Ryan following a positive report from the Probation Service.
Darren Martyn, a forensic science student at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, and Donnacha O’Cearbhaill, the son of independent Offaly County Cllr John Carroll and a medicinal chemistry student at Trinity College Dublin, are the first people in Ireland to be successfully prosecuted for computer hacking.
In January 2011, seven weeks before a general election was due to be held, Fine Gael’s www.finegael2011.ie website was replaced with the logo for hacking group Anonymous and a statement reading, “Nothing is safe, you put your faith in this political party and they take no measures to protect you. They offer you free speech yet they censor your voice. WAKE UP!”
The bottom of the page read, “owned by Raepsauce and Palladium”, which are Martyn and O’Cearbhaill’s online aliases. The site was offline for 24 hours and its database was stolen and published online.
Probation of Offenders Act
The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation worked in conjunction with the FBI to identify the pair, who pleaded guilty to the offence in July this year. As they had no prior criminal convictions and no one suffered as a result of the data breach, Ryan ordered the two to take part in a restorative justice programme through the Probation Service.
When the case resumed yesterday, Ryan said feedback from their probation service had been favourable and decided to apply the Probation of Offenders Act, which would mean no prison sentence and no criminal record for Martyn and O’Cearbhaill.
The hackers were also ordered to pay €5,000 each for the costs incurred in recovering the website. Fine Gael has said half of this money will be donated to suicide prevention charity Pieta House while the rest would cover legal costs.