An MLA who was sued over comments he made on Facebook has said the traumatic experience will not deter him from using social media “as a tool to help people”.
The civil case centred around a 15-year-old who accused Paul Frew of breach of privacy, claiming the DUP man had linked her to anti-social behaviour via a social media post.
But the case was dismissed after the judge declared the girl had failed to establish liability against Mr Frew, adding that the North Antrim MLA “had acted throughout in good faith in making considerable attempts to address the issue of anti-social behaviour”.
And Mr Frew, chair of Stormont’s justice committee, told the News Letter that while he “regrets how far the matter escalated”, he is steadfast in his belief that his course of action was the “correct one”.
He explained: “I regret that the matter ended up in a legal case, as it is not nice for a young person to have to sit in a courtroom and be cross-examined.
“But I feel vindicated by the determination of the judge and I know I did the right thing.
“People had been contacting me about the horrendous spate of anti-social behaviour in Broughshane and the Harryville area of Ballymena.
“Over 20 homes and business were targeted, including my house which was pelted with eggs.
“It started with fireworks and eggs, but the incidents soon became much more serious and sinister.
“When anyone confronted these young people, they were threatened with being burned out.
“I was going into people’s houses and I could see the pain in their eyes from what they were going through because of all this.”
Describing the issue as the “most challenging period” of his political career, Mr Frew added: “Of course the court case was a stressful time for me, but it was not as stressful as what those people were being put through.
“Engaging with people on Facebook was a genuine attempt on my part to help resolve the matter, it was not about naming and shaming.
“Shining a light on the issue over social media seemed to bring the situation to a head, as the anti-social behaviour more or less stopped after that.”
Mr Frew said that he will now be “more cautious” about what he posts on social media, but added: “Facebook is a wonderful tool to engage with people, and this experience won’t stop me from using it to try and help people in my constituency.”