Northern Ireland news

‘Paedophile hunter' fails to appear in court for ruling appeal

Joe McCloskey. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Staff Reporter

A SO-CALLED 'paedophile hunter' ordered to pay damages to a convicted child abuser failed to turn up in court for his appeal against the ruling.

Limavady man Joe McCloskey and Facebook are both challenging a verdict that they should pay the sex offender £20,000 in compensation.

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

As the hearing got underway at the Court of Appeal on Monday a panel of three senior judges were informed that he 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."

Mr 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 a judge found them 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 in his forties, 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 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 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.

Ruling in favour of CG's right to privacy, the High Court awarded damages 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 pay-out to the sex offender until that litigation is dealt with.

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

He said a large category of comments which 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 sex offender's lawyers in a bid to have the postings removed from Facebook, 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.

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