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The minister who approved block on Arlene Arkinson papers

Northern Ireland Office minister Ben Wallace, who approved a Public Interest Immunity application to withhold papers
Brendan Hughes

THIS is the minister who signed off on a bid to stop secret files being accessed during the inquest into the death of murdered schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson.

Northern Ireland Office (NIO) minister Ben Wallace approved a Public Interest Immunity (PII) application to withhold documents linked to the case.

The decision to approve a PSNI request to withhold papers emerged at Belfast's Laganside Court on Friday at a preliminary hearing into the long-delayed inquest.

Mr Wallace has been a Conservative MP for the Wyre and Preston North constituency since 2010 and became NIO parliamentary under-secretary in May last year.

The 45-year-old was previously a soldier in the British Army which included deployment in Northern Ireland.

The Irish News yesterday invited Mr Wallace to explain why he approved the PII application, but both the NIO and his office said he unavailable for comment.

In a statement, an NIO spokesman said: "At the specific request of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, some of the documents submitted to the court in relation to this inquest were subject to careful redactions.

"These related only to material the police judged would compromise their ability to bring murderers, rapists and other serious criminals to justice in future."

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