Belfast Telegraph

TalkTalk teen hacker in legal challenge over Press identification

Telecom company TalkTalk was targeted by hackers
Telecom company TalkTalk was targeted by hackers

A Northern Ireland teenager who was part of the high-profile hacking of telecom giant TalkTalk suffered discrimination by his initial media identification, the High Court has heard.

His lawyers claimed an unlawful distinction was made between his circumstances and other juvenile crime suspects automatically entitled to anonymity once they are charged.

Now aged 20, he is still referred to only as JKL in a case examining the right of the Press to name young people under police investigation.

He was 15 when police arrested him in October 2015 over a major hack into the phone and broadband provider's database.

Detectives interviewed him as a cyber-crime suspect before he was released on bail without charge at that stage.

Under the terms of the 1999 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act no-one under 18 allegedly involved in an offence can be named in Press reports.

Although that law applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, lawyers for the teenager claimed Stormont's continued failure to commence the Act breached his human rights.

They argue it was irrational to be denied the same protection given to minors once they are charged with an offence.

The legal loophole enabled his details and photograph to feature amid widespread newspaper and online publicity, according to their case.

Ultimately JKL pleaded guilty to unauthorised access to computer material.

He was ordered to complete 50 hours community service and write a letter of apology to the communications firm.

His legal challenge is focused on the legislative protection from press identification for youths before they have been charged.

In 2016 the High Court dismissed an initial bid to have the Department of Justice compelled to implement a law banning the naming of juvenile crime suspects at the pre-charge stage.

Those proceedings centred on an alleged breach of privacy.

JKL was set to appeal that decision, but senior judges instead referred the case back to the High Court to determine separately if he has suffered any discrimination.

At a new hearing on Monday, January 6, JKL's lawyers argued that the current legislative situation contravenes his Article 14 rights under European law.

Ronan Lavery QC contended that discrimination between categories of children is unlawful.

He said: "The distinction is between individuals who are pre-charge or pre-summons, who don't have any protection, and those post-charge or post-summons who benefit from legislative provisions granting them anonymity."

Judgment was reserved following fresh submissions.

Mr Justice Colton pledged to give his decision as soon as possible.

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