Boy wins right to challenge PSNI Operation Exposure

A 14-year-old boy has won permission to challenge a police decision to publish his photograph in an investigation into street violence in Londonderry.

A High Court judge ruled on Wednesday that there was an arguable case that using his image in newspapers and leaflets breached his right to privacy.

The case will now proceed to a full application for judicial review set to be heard in December.

The photographs were published as part of Operation Exposure.

The police initiative involves the publication of photos of those suspected of involvement in interface crime and sectarian clashes in the city.

Lawyers for the teenager, who cannot be identified, will also seek an undertaking from the PSNI that the disputed operation will be put on hold until the challenge is decided.

A barrister for the youth questioned both the decision to publish and the lawfulness of the operation.

The court heard the youth had already made admissions after being arrested in connection with violent outbreaks in June.

His lawyer claimed there should now be an inquiry into why a decision was then taken to publish his image over a separate alleged incident for which he has not been charged.

It was claimed the tactic should only be used as a last resort because it contravened the privacy of a child.

The judge hearing the case was told it was a flawed and irrational "naming and shaming" tactic.

It was also also pointed out that his client was not in Derry around July 12, a period under scrutiny in the operation.

But counsel for the Chief Constable said police would use a briefing system to try to identify suspects internally before any decision was taken to publish.

He asked what was unlawful about exhibiting pictures of somebody in a public place during an outbreak of public disorder.

It was also submitted that the initiative had a broader scope than just identifying suspects and making arrests.

Building community confidence and steering people away from crime were also objectives, the court was told.

Delivering judgment today on the application for leave to seek a judicial review, Mr Justice Treacy held there was an arguable case on one ground alleging a breach of the teenager's right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights.

He added: "Given the importance of the case I think we should try and have it heard before Christmas."

Ronan Lavery, appearing for the teenager, also confirmed he would be seeking an undertaking "that such an operation wouldn't be used until trial".

If that request is refused an application may be lodged for an interim court order prohibiting the police from continuing with the initiative.

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