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'Paedophile hunter' fails to turn up for appeal on payout to pervert ruling

By Alan Erwin

Published 05/04/2016

Joe McCloskey was a no-show at his appeal hearing
Joe McCloskey was a no-show at his appeal hearing

A "paedophile hunter" ordered to pay damages to a convicted child abuser failed to turn up in court yesterday for his appeal against the ruling.

Limavady man Joe McCloskey and Facebook are both challenging a verdict that they were jointly liable to the sex offender awarded £20,000 compensation.

His efforts to overturn the judgment have been surrounded by continued uncertainty over his legal aid status.

As the hearing got under way at the Court of Appeal, a panel of three senior judges was informed McCloskey was not in attendance.

Inviting Facebook's lawyers to open their case, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "If at any stage Mr McCloskey makes an appearance, we can deal with that."

McCloskey was sued along with the social media giant over a page he operated to name and shame sex offenders in Northern Ireland. In a landmark ruling last year, the High Court held that the payout should be made to one of those who featured.

A judge also found Mr McCloskey and Facebook liable for misusing private information.

The sex offender who brought the privacy action, identified only as CG, was released from jail in 2012 after serving a sentence for gross indecency and indecent assault offences against a young girl and a teenage boy.

Now aged in his 40s, he remains under supervision by the authorities but has been assessed as posing no significant risk to the public. He claimed harassment, violation of his right to privacy and breaches of the Data Protection Act against Facebook and Mr McCloskey after his photograph and details appeared on the page Keeping Our Kids Safe From Predators 2.

Amid a string of abusive comments and information on his location, one user called for him to be hanged while others endorsed shooting or castrating him.

In evidence, CG claimed he had been threatened with being thrown off a pier, hounded out of a cinema and had to use a supermarket trolley to fight off another tormentor. His lawyers said the campaign had reached the level of dangerous vigilantism.

Ruling in favour of CG's right to privacy, the High Court awarded damages in the total sum of £20,000, with Mr McCloskey liable for £15,000 of that amount.

Since the verdict, two of CG's victims have issued writs against him. An injunction was also secured to stop any payout to the sex offender until that litigation was dealt with.

Appealing the ruling against Facebook, Anthony White QC challenged the finding that the firm was liable for misuse of private information.

He said a large category of comments that included "vulgar, abusive language" could not be complained about.

"CG did not object to name calling, stating it was part his conviction and he had to live with that," the barrister contended.

Turning to notification letters issued by the offender's lawyers in a bid to have the postings removed, he also noted how defamation claims were not advanced at the original trial.

Mr White added: "It's perhaps not difficult to see why - he's a convicted child sex offender and although some of the words are defamatory, they are true and justified."

The appeal continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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