Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Where is justice for Arlene's family?

For the past 17 years the family of Tyrone girl Arlene Arkinson have been desperately seeking the truth about what happened to the teenager who disappeared after attending a disco in Co Donegal.

In 2005 a man, Robert Howard, was acquitted of her murder after a lengthy trial. She was last seen in a car with him in the early hours of August 14. Now Howard is to be called as a witness to an inquest into the girl's presumed death.

Quite understandably the grieving family want this inquiry to go ahead as planned, but Howard, who is serving life for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old London girl, is mounting a legal challenge against the inquest.

His initial attempt to block it failed, but now he is appealing that High Court ruling.

Many will agree with Jim Wells of the Justice Committee at Stormont who describes Howard's legal challenges as vexatious.

They will also wonder why many thousands of pounds of public money should be given to Howard to continue his legal actions.

While it is right and proper that legal redress is made available in any case where a miscarriage of justice could take place or where a person has a reasonable cause for complaint, that certainly does not appear to be the case in this instance.

Sometimes, at least to the lay person, the law seems devoid of common sense.

Take the case of extremist preacher, Abu Qatada, in England who has been released from prison following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

It blocked his deportation to Jordan where he is wanted on terrorist charges. He is regarded as a threat to the UK's national security, but the UK authorities are being hamstrung by the courts.

Here Howard is a material witness in an inquest yet he is prolonging the agony of the Arkinson family by continuing to mount legal challenges against the hearing.

The Arkinsons may well ask where is the justice in that.

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