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Teen 'afraid to walk streets' after DUP MLA linked her on Facebook to delinquency

Girl sues Frew for £5k after he posted name on social media

By Nevin Farrell

Published 30/07/2016

DUP MLA Paul Frew leaves Coleraine Court yesterday
DUP MLA Paul Frew leaves Coleraine Court yesterday

A teenage girl has claimed she is the victim of a backlash after being identified on Facebook by the chair of the Stormont Justice Committee as having links to a youth gang blamed for a spate of anti-social behaviour.

The girl (15) told the County Court in Coleraine that after her name was put on social media by North Antrim DUP MLA Paul Frew, she fears walking through the village of Broughshane near Ballymena. The teenager is suing the politician in a civil case and the court was previously told the legal 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 the plaintiff's claim was for £5,000 for 'personal injury' but said there was no evidence of personal injury.

The 41-year-old politician told yesterday's court the girl and others were named in the hope people could get in touch with parents to help stop anti-social behaviour.

The girl said she was scared when she read Facebook comments from people alleging what they would do with people involved in anti-social behaviour.

The teenager told the court she was present with other young people when some incidents took place in Broughshane but that she was not involved in any anti-social behaviour.

The girl confirmed she was aware there had been several incidents of anti-social behaviour in Broughshane involving knocking doors, shouting at people and throwing eggs at houses.

The girl said she was not revealing the names of others who were with her and said it was a coincidence she was present when things occurred.

Mr McHugh said two women alleged the girl was outside a house and told somebody to "f*** off" and that somebody else in the group then said the property would be burned down.

The girl told the court: "I am nearly 100% sure I never said that". The teenager said her name was mentioned by Mr Frew on social media about being involved in an incident in the Harryville area of Ballymena but said she was not even present in Harryville that night.

"My name should never have been mentioned on social media," she said.

She accepted it could be possible she was getting dirty looks because she was hanging around with people, some of whom have been engaged in anti-social behaviour.

Mr Frew, a father of three teenagers, told yesterday's court part of his role as an MLA for North Antrim was to liaise with the community and the police regarding anti-social behaviour. He said he tried to engage with young people in a meaningful manner in order to protect residents and to prevent people getting criminal records in court.

He said anti-social behaviour was a massive issue and he passed on relevant information to police and also helped organise initiatives like night-time football to keep teenagers off the streets.

Mr Frew said local people would often contact him because of frustration with police and he said meetings were held involving the community and police and he had visited homes of young people and spoken to them and their parents in a bid to stamp out the trouble.

The politician said when he named the girl on Facebook he was not intending to harass her or expose her to scorn or ridicule or breach her privacy.

He said he had no control over what other people said but there was a "deep sense of fear and frustration" at the time and people were venting their anger.

Mr Frew said her name had "cropped up" in the debate about what was happening and with incidents getting more serious when he posted the girl's name to his 1,682 Facebook friends he hoped it might help move the situation forward. He said it was his "duty" to help residents after seeing the pain caused and he was "trying to do the best for the community".

Judge Philip Gilpin said he would accept closing statements in the case in written format over the next couple of weeks and after that will notify the parties when his judgment will be delivered.

Belfast Telegraph

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