Schoolboy held over TalkTalk cyber attack seeks to block identification

Antrim boy detained in 2015 by police investigating hack into telecom’s database

A Co Antrim schoolboy arrested over the 2015 cyber attack on TalkTalk is to appeal his failed Belfast High Court bid to secure legislative protection from media identification.

The 15-year-old is seeking to overturn a ruling that the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland cannot be compelled to implement a law banning the press from naming juveniles suspected of crimes before they are charged.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan on Tuesday agreed to list the renewed challenge for a hearing in September.

The boy was detained in October 2015 by police investigating a major hack into the phone and broadband provider’s database. He was interviewed as a cyber-crime suspect before being released on bail without charge. 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, lawyers for the teenager claimed 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 three national newspapers for allegedly revealing his identity. Although a ban on publishing the youth’s identity has been imposed on the separate litigation, his legal team 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. However, the boy's barrister, Ronan Lavery, confirmed in the Court of Appeal his intention to challenge the ruling. He told senior judges legal aid is still to be secured. Listing the case for hearing in September, Sir Declan added: "If there's a problem with legal aid you should let the office know, particularly if it's going to lead to the case not proceeding."