The chair of the Stormont justice committee is being sued for damages for allegedly breaching a 14-year-old girl’s rights.
North Antrim DUP Assemblyman Paul Frew allegedly named her on social media as being associated with a group of youths accused of anti-social behaviour in a Co Antrim village.
The girl, who cannot be named, is at the centre of a case brought before the Civil Court in Coleraine yesterday which heard allegations that after a ‘spike’ in reports of trouble in Broughshane she was named on Facebook by Mr Frew.
The girl’s father, who is not being named to protect her identity, told the court he was amazed that somebody in Frew’s position of authority posted names of teenagers on social media linking them to ongoing anti-social behaviour in Broughshane and also in Ballymena’s Harryville area, where the politician alleged a door belonging to him was kicked in.
Frew watched on from the public gallery and the case has been adjourned until July when the defendant’s case is expected to be outlined.
Barrister Julie Ellison, acting for the girl, said the defendant published names of people on his Facebook page and a Broughshane community page saying they may have been involved in anti-social behaviour in the village.
The comments on Facebook were made earlier this year before Frew took up chairmanship of the justice committee.
Ms Ellison said the DUP man was in a considerable position of authority as an MLA and had inappropriately dealt with the issue.
She alleged the publication of the names “heightened the difficulty” as his posts then led to comments from others which she claimed could “incite or inflame members of the community, particularly to vigilante activity”.
She said the action was being taken against Frew over the teenager’s right to be protected from harassment and the politician’s alleged mis-use of her private information.
Frew’s defence lawyer Gary McHugh said the plaintiff’s claim was for £5,000 for “personal injury” but there was no evidence of personal injury.
The girl’s father said his daughter had, by the MLA’s actions, been “branded” as being part of the ‘Broughshane hoods’.
He said his daughter is nervous and “people are making comments as she walks along the street”.
Cross-examined by Frew’s barrister, the father was asked if he accepted the defendant had not made comments about how to deal with the youths.
He replied: “ I accept that, but at no stage did he counteract that.”