Solicitor Stephen Atherton pursuing High Court action on behalf of kids banned from outdoor sports

Solicitor Stephen Atherton has challenged the NI Executive's restrictions on outdoors sports for children Picture by Hugh Russell.

SOLICITOR Stephen Atherton yesterday lodged legal proceedings with the Royal High Courts of Justice over the Northern Ireland Executive’s decision to maintain the ban on outdoor sports for children and young people.

The Magherafelt-based solicitor deemed the pandemic restrictions for grassroots outdoor activity as “unlawful” – a claim refuted by the Executive who cited the fact that children are engaged in PE in schools and on the balance of “risks and harms” relating to the R rate, a decision was reached to clamp down on outdoor activity for a period.

The father-of-five described the restrictions as “draconian” and expressed his disappointment at the various sports governing bodies for not publicly backing his call to challenge the restrictions more forcefully.

“[The Executive] have provided no indication whatsoever that the unlawful prohibition on outdoor children’s sport will be removed by them next week, or indeed in the early part of next year.

“Whilst this litigation is principally taken on behalf of an 8-year-old child from Magherafelt, a child who is presently prohibited from playing the sport that he loves, these proceedings can be viewed as an action on behalf of every child in Northern Ireland who plays sport.”

In a press statement, Mr Atherton added: “Given that the harm being caused to our children by these restrictions is ongoing, I will be asking the High Court to hear the matter expeditiously and provide interim relief removing the prohibition on outdoor children’s sport.”

The Stormont Executive last night announced some restrictions will lift at the end of the current lockdown next weekend, including 'outdoor sports' - but more detail is required to see if it is feasible for sports clubs to return to the field of play.

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