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'Paedophile hunter' Joe McCloskey left without legal team for appeal against damages payment to child abuser

By Alan Erwin

Published 07/12/2015

Joe McCloskey
Joe McCloskey

A so-called "paedophile hunter" ordered to pay damages to a convicted child abuser has been left without a legal team for his appeal against the ruling.

Lawyers representing Limavady man Joe McCloskey were granted permission to come off record after citing "a breakdown in trust".

Mr McCloskey and Facebook were jointly sued over a page he operated on the social networking site to name and shame sex offenders in Northern Ireland.

In a landmark case earlier this year the High Court awarded £20,000 in damages to one of those who featured.

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

Information published indiscriminately could have threatened public order and incited violence and hatred, he found.

Both defendants were due to challenge the verdicts against them at a hearing listed for later this month.

But Mr McCloskey's legal team applied to come off record due to issues that have arisen in the case.

The Court of Appeal heard his legal aid certificate was suspended in September while an investigation was carried out. Ultimately it was revoked last month.

Senior counsel also cited difficulties in making contact.

"On that basis alone we say there's been a breakdown in trust," she told the court.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said it was a "most unfortunate" development so soon to the date of the appeal hearing.

Granting the application, however, he added: "There's good reason for it - there's been a lack of co-operation on the part of the appellant."

Sir Declan directed that Mr McCloskey should attend court for a review of the case later this week.

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 and 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 hung while others endorsed shooting or castrating him.

In evidence CG also claimed he has been threatened with being thrown off a pier during a fishing trip, hounded out of a cinema and had to use a supermarket trolley to fight off another tormentor.

His lawyers argued that the campaign had reached the level of dangerous vigilantism.

Although the judge described CG's offences as representing "despicable criminal conduct", he stressed that sex offenders who have served their sentences are to be protected from others intent on harming them or driving them from their homes.

Ruling in favour of CG's right to privacy, he made an award of damages against the defendants in the total sum of £20,000.

Mr McCloskey was held to be 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 is dealt with.

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