Case against PSNI dismissed due to ‘inordinate’ delay

The PSNI apologised to the man's family for mistakenly using the photograph
The PSNI apologised to the man's family for mistakenly using the photograph

A student has lost a High Court battle over the publication of his photograph as part of a police investigation into teenage rioting in Londonderry.

His lawyers argued that featuring his image in newspapers and on television when he was aged 15 amounted to a “naming and shaming” breach of his right to privacy.

But a judge dismissed his challenge after ruling that delays in bringing the case were inordinate and unjustified.

The man, now aged 22 and referred to as JR46, issued proceedings against the PSNI for providing his photo to media outlets in 2010.

Police had introduced a policy, Operation Exposure, aimed at identifying young people wanted in connection with notorious bouts of sectarian disorder.

Around 75 youths were suspected of involvement in at least 46 incidents of street violence, which included throwing stones, missiles, paint and petrol bombs, between April and July 2010.

On July 12 that year 60 petrol bombs were hurled at police officers, and a masked gunman fired rounds from a pistol.

JR46’s photo was among a set of images published by two newspapers in the city, as well as appearing on local news broadcasts.

Separate legal proceedings commenced by another teenager, JR38, over the same policy were ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court in 2015.

But it was contended that JR46’s case was different because he was a wholly innocent bystander.

The photo shows him in a purely inert, observer mode, the court heard.

Now studying for a university degree, he recalled feeling shame and suspicion, as well as being taunted at school and withdrawing from voluntary activities following the publication.

His image was removed from a leaflet containing suspects’ photos after he confirmed one of them was him.

The court also heard that the PSNI apologised to JR46’s family for mistakenly publishing his image in the press due to a misunderstanding.

But the judge described accounts given at police interviews about any alleged involvement in incidents in June 2010 as “confused, convoluted and conflicting”.

He held that there had been “outright inertia” in bringing proceedings for two years after the Supreme Court dismissed JR38’s case.

Further rejecting the grounds of challenge, he left it up to JR46 to consider any separate lawsuit.