Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Second top secret hearing over disclosure row in Arlene Arkinson inquest

Published 19/02/2016

Fifteen-year-old Arlene Arkinson vanished after a night out in 1994
Fifteen-year-old Arlene Arkinson vanished after a night out in 1994

Lawyers have held a second top secret hearing to try to resolve the disclosure dispute at the centre of an inquest for a murdered Co Tyrone schoolgirl.

Judge Brian Sherrard convened the behind-closed-doors session at Belfast's Laganside court complex on Friday afternoon.

The Northern Ireland Office has requested a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate to prevent a series of sensitive files linked to the case of Arlene Arkinson being made public at her inquest.

Government minister Ben Wallace approved the PII application but the final decision rests with the coroner, Judge Sherrard - who said on Thursday he wanted to find a way forward on the contentious issue.

Grounds for PII include matters of national security or the protection of police methodologies such as the use of informers.

While the Government has obtained such immunity on sensitive papers relating to legacy terrorist cases in Northern Ireland, questions have been raised as to why PII issues would be at play at the inquest of a missing schoolgirl.

In a public court hearing earlier in the week, it emerged that the classified files name a man interrogated by republican paramilitaries and the person whose bogus tip-off prompted police to dig up a bereaved family member's garden.

Lawyers for the Arkinson family argued that the identities of those individuals should be made public.

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

She was last seen with convicted child killer Robert Howard, who died in prison last year.

Howard was acquitted of the teenager's murder by a jury that was unaware of his previous conviction for murdering schoolgirl Hannah Williams, 14, in south London.

He always remained the police's prime suspect in the Arkinson case.

The inquest process has been plagued by hold-ups, many due to the length of time police have taken to disclose classified papers to the court. In nine years, there have been almost 40 preliminary hearings.

The case is due to resume again on Monday when a former detective from Kent Police is expected to give evidence.

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph