The family of a 14-year-old boy whose face was published in newspapers and leaflets as part of a PSNI police “naming and shaming” tactic have taken a legal challenge against his treatment.
Lawyers for the boy told the High Court in Belfast his right to privacy had been breached by the PSNI’s decision to publish his photograph as part of their investigation into clashes during the marching season.
The family of the boy, who cannot be identified, are seeking a judicial review of the PSNI’s so-called ‘Operation Exposure’, which involved the publication of photographs of those suspected of involvement in interface crime and sectarian clashes in Derry.
Ronan Lavery, appearing for the teenager, challenged both the decision to publish and the lawfulness of the operation.
The court heard that the youth had already made admissions in connection with interface clashes in June.
However, Mr Lavery claimed there should now be an inquiry into why a decision was then taken to publish his client’s image in relation to a separate incident over which he has not been charged.
Mr Lavery said his client was not in Derry around the Twelfth of July, the period under scrutiny in the operation.
“There are very strict circumstances in which this should be done,” he said.
“That is really a tactic that the police should use as an absolute last resort because it offends the privacy of the child.”
Mr Lavery said further steps could have been taken before police embarked on what he called an extra-statutory scheme.
“There is an identification by the publishing of the image itself,” he told the court. “Naming and shaming is a turn of phrase for this kind of tactic. The tactic is to expose either the pictured or named person as an offender as a deterrent.”
Asked by the judge about circulating images of people who might be completely innocent, Tony McGleenan, for the PSNI, said the pictures would all “have a context”.
“They are not photographs of a boy doing his homework taken through a window at night,” he said.
“These are photographs taken by police officers, no doubt in liveried vehicles or in uniform at the time.”
Mr Justice Treacy reserved judgment on whether to grant leave for the child to seek a judicial review.