Concern over vulnerable man’s ‘fatal attraction’ to online dating

A vulnerable intellectually disabled man’s “fatal attraction” to internet dating sites, including one used mostly by teenagers, has lead to court orders requiring him to engage with a programme on appropriate social media use.
The man, aged in his 30s, is a ward of court and his case was before the president of the High Court as a result of concerns of the disability services organisation caring for him.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said the man is “very vulnerable” and open to personal and financial abuse by users of social media sites to which he appeared to have a “fatal attraction”.

The judge was told the man is “fixated” on finding a girlfriend and previously had his passport seized by court order to prevent him travelling to the US to meet a woman he had met online and agreed to marry.
That woman later sought but was refused entry to Ireland and the contact appeared to have “fizzled out”.
The judge also heard the man had to be removed from the Dublin to Galway train last month after he boarded it with a view to meeting another woman whom he had contacted on the internet.

More recently, he had been in contact with an African woman who appeared to be a victim of human trafficking.
The organisation caring for the man is concerned about his apparent lack of discernment in his use of internet sites, evidenced by his use of a site used by teenagers, an escort services site and one used by gay men.

There were also concerns he may have released personal financial information to persons on the internet and was open to blackmail or financial abuse. There appeared to have been at least one attempt to blackmail him.
He had also incurred arrears on the nominal rent he was paying to the services organisation and it considered he was spending his limited finances and disability allowance unwisely, including on various mobile phone gadgets.

The organisation had sought to have him engage with a programme about appropriate internet use but, because he was not engaging, applied for court orders requiring him to do so.

Mr Justice Kelly said he shared the concerns for the man and made orders requiring him engage with the social media programme. He also directed the man’s disability allowance be paid to the general solicitor for wards of court who would release monies to him for appropriate purposes.

The judge told the man, who was in court, that the orders were for his benefit. The court is among the people worried for his welfare but those he was meeting on the internet had no such concerns, he said.

When the man asked that his passport be returned so he could visit a relative in London, the judge said he would need further information before deciding on that.

He adjourned that issue and directed the man to contact the general solicitor about various concerns raised by the man, including the adequacy of his accommodation and payments out of his disability allowance.