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Northern Ireland news

Newspapers can make representations in legal challenge brought by Co Antrim teen prosecuted over TalkTalk cyber attack

Three newspapers are to be given the chance to make representations in case brought by a Co Antrim teenager prosecuted over the TalkTalk cyber attack in October 2015

THREE newspapers are to be given the chance to intervene in a potentially landmark legal challenge brought by a Co Antrim teenager prosecuted over the TalkTalk cyber attack.

Judges at the Court of Appeal in Belfast directed that The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Sun should have notice party status, providing them with an opportunity to make representations in the case.

Lawyers for the 17-year-old boy at the centre of proceedings want to secure legislative protection from being named in the press.

He is attempting to overturn a ruling that Stormont's Department of Justice cannot be compelled to implement a law banning media from identifying juveniles suspected of crimes before they are charged.

With his appeal now listed for hearing in November, sources close to the case predicted it could also have implications for the practice in other parts of the United Kingdom.

The boy was 15 when he was detained in October 2015 by police investigating a major attack on the phone and broadband provider TalkTalk's database.

Last week he admitted an allegation in connection with the hacking, but continues to deny a second count linked to the same probe.

His judicial review challenge is focused on the publicity surrounding his arrest, before he had been charged.

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, the teenager's legal team claim Stormont's continued failure to commence the Act breached his right to privacy.

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.

It is the second set of proceedings issued by the teenager. He is also suing the publishers of The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Sun for allegedly revealing his identity.

Although a ban on publishing the youth's identity has been imposed in the separate litigation, his lawyers contend that is not enough.

In December last year a High Court judge dismissed the bid to judicially review the department.

He noted that the then Stormont Executive had decided legislation is currently not necessary.

Protection is provided through an independent press code of practice and the ability to sue for misuse of private information, the judge also pointed out.

That verdict will now be challenged in the Court of Appeal later this year.

At a review hearing today Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "We are minded to make the three newspapers involved in the civil proceedings notice parties, and invite them to think about (making) a single representation."

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