Belfast Telegraph

Arlene coroner's anonymity concerns

A senior coroner has raised concerns about the cumbersome and inconsistent process used to blank out names on important court documents.

John Leckey said civilians wishing to have their privacy rights protected appeared to be treated differently from former members of the security forces.

He said: "Why is there a different approach for retired police officers; members of the armed forces and civilians?"

The coroner, who was speaking during a preliminary inquiring hearing for missing teenager Arlene Arkinson, said he had "flagged up" the problems with the Secretary of State and Department of Justice.

"But, the problem persists," he added.

Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, vanished in 1994 after a night out at a disco across the Irish border in Co Donegal.

Eleven years later killer Robert Howard, who was the last person seen with her, was acquitted of her murder.

The trial jury was unaware of his history of sex attacks and his conviction for strangling south London teenager Hannah Williams in 2001.

The long-awaited coroner's investigation into the disappearance of the teenager was postponed last year after a development in the police investigation prompted fresh digs for her body.

More than 92 new searches have failed to find Arlene.

With no body found, lawyers for 69-year-old Howard, who is serving a life sentence at HMP Frankland in County Durham, intend to challenge the presumption Arlene is dead when the inquest gets under way.

The preliminary inquiry at Mays Chambers in Belfast heard how redactions had been made to documents under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which seeks to protect a person's right to privacy.

During previous court sittings particular scrutiny was focused on the police's decision to blank out papers that had been provided, in unredacted form, to the criminal court hearing Howard's murder trial.

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