Teen sues North Antrim MLA over claims he called her a ‘hood’

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North Antrim MLA Paul Frew is being sued for damages after allegedly breaching the rights of a teenager he named as being linked to anti-social behaviour in Broughshane.

A report of the hearing in Coleraine on Thursday, which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph, stated that after an increase in reports of trouble in Broughshane, Mr Frew named the 14-year-old girl - who for legal reasons cannot be identified - on Facebook.

The girl’s father, who also cannot be named in order to protect his daughter’s identity, told the court he was amazed that somebody in Mr Frew’s position of authority would name teenagers on social media linking them to anti-social behaviour.

The incidents in question are said to extend beyond Broughshane and into the Harryville area of Ballymena, where Mr Frew - chair of Stormont’s Justice Committee - alleged a door belonging to him was kicked in.

Barrister Julie Ellison, acting for the girl, claimed Mr Frew published names he said were involved in anti-social behaviour in the village on his Facebook page and on a Broughshane community page.

She added that he had alleged that her client was involved in “specific incidents”.

The lawyer also alleged the publication of the names “heightened the difficulty” because his posts then led to comments from others that she claimed could “incite members of the community, particularly to vigilante activity”.

The barrister said the action was being taken against Mr Frew over the teenager’s right to be protected from harassment and the politician’s alleged misuse of her private information.

Mr Frew’s defence lawyer, Gary McHugh, said that while the plaintiff’s claim was for £5,000 for personal injury, there was no evidence of any injury.

The girl’s father said his daughter had been “branded” by the MLA’s actions as being part of the ‘Broughshane Hoods’.

He said his daughter is nervous and “people are making comments as she walks along the street. People are giving her dirty looks”.

He said he was alerted his daughter had been named on social media in February this year, after which he took screen grabs of the alleged posts, one of which is said to feature Mr Frew mentioning an incident in which the door of a property belonging to him was “kicked off” its hinges.

Ms Ellison said her client’s alleged involvement in anti-social behaviour was not the point, rather that the defendant should not have taken “matters into his own hands” by allegedly publishing the girl’s name on a public forum and claiming she was involved in a criminal offence.

In the witness box, the girl’s father told the court that he could not believe “that somebody in this man’s position could name my child to so many people and have no evidence”.

The hearing was told that after the girl’s name was allegedly published, other people referred to “naming and shaming” those involved and made comments after dealing with the children, which made the girl’s father fear for her safety.

Cross-examined by Mr Frew’s barrister, the father was asked if he accepted that the defendant had made no comment about how youths should be dealt with. He replied: “I accept that, but at no stage did he counteract that.”

Barrister Mr McHugh said Mr Frew had information he was referring to the police.

The lawyer claimed there had been a series of incidents, stretching as far back as the previous Halloween, of young people in Broughshane indulging in anti-social behaviour, including knocking doors and spreading food carry-outs over properties.

Mr McHugh also claimed it was never his client’s intention to meet the girl one-on-one.

He argued that the claim by the plaintiff centred on getting money for damages by alleging Mr Frew was harassing her, yet private messages were initiated by her.

The girl’s father accepted she started the messages, but not the original Facebook posts.

Mr Frew was in the public gallery for the hearing, with the case adjourned until a date in July, when it is expected that the Stormont Justice Committee chairman’s arguments will be outlined.