Molly Russell inquest delayed to ensure social media posts

The inquest into the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell was delayed by legal discussions on Tuesday as the coroner raised concerns about protecting people whose social media posts appear at the hearing.

The teenager, from Harrow in north-west London, took her own life in November 2017 after viewing content including posts linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.

The coroner, Andrew Walker, said he had not forgotten that “at the heart of every inquest lies a grieving family”, as legal issues dominated the first day of the hearing, which is taking place almost five years after Molly’s death.

Molly’s father, Ian Russell, who has become a prominent campaigner for protection of children from harmful social media content, had been due to give a pen portrait of Molly’s life on the opening day of the inquest.

Executives from Instagram and Pinterest, two platforms that Molly interacted with before her death, are due to appear as witnesses at the hearing which could last two weeks.

However, proceedings at North London coroner’s court in Barnet were delayed as legal representatives of the Russell family, Instagram’s owner, Meta, Pinterest and the media discussed access to evidence with the coroner.

Walker said “sufficient safeguards” must be in place for the authors of the posts used as evidence, whose identities have been redacted but might be able to identify themselves from some material published in the media.

Walker raised concerns that the publishing of certain social media posts accessed by the teenager before her death could have a negative effect on their original author.

“It’s that one issue of ensuring that if there is material, that might affect the author … we deal with it in a sensitive way,” he said.

Addressing the delays at the end of the day’s hearing, the coroner said: “It’s very difficult for the family in inquests such as this where there are many legal matters to discuss.

“At the heart of every inquest lies a grieving family and that is something I have not forgotten despite all the work that has been done by counsel today to try and move this case further forward.”

The inquest has already been delayed before, owing to issues including requests from Instagram’s owner, Meta, to redact content to protect the privacy of users.