Northern Ireland news

Unearthed journals cause new delay in Arlene Arkinson inquest

The body of Arlene Arkinson (15), from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, has never been found
Michael McHugh, Press Association

THE Arlene Arkinson inquest has hit another last-minute delay over whether evidence from recently unearthed journals can be disclosed.

A barrister for the police wants to withhold information contained in a document by appealing to the state's responsibilities to protect life and privacy.

Coroner Brian Sherrard said only a few lines may be affected and that they would be clearly connected to other matters already barred to the public by the NIO.

He said the family of the Co Tyrone teenager who disappeared on her way home from a disco in Donegal in 1994 would be disappointed at the hold-up after they had waited so long to get to this point.

Mr Sherrard said: "It is better that we do things correctly as opposed to doing things artificially quickly and perhaps making mistakes by doing that.

"Is there a fast-track mechanism that we could avail of in order to get the matter dealt with?"

On Friday Kevin Rooney QC, for the PSNI, told the Belfast inquest that he consulted a witness more than a week ago and, on the basis of what the witness told him, asked for the journals to be found.

Late on Thursday night the records were provided.

Mr Rooney said some details could either require an application for Public Interest Immunity (PII) from release, which has to be approved by the NIO, or for protection from public disclosure because to do so could threaten somebody's life or privacy as defined by the Human Rights Act.

The coroner could rule on whether to invoke the human-rights law provisions after taking legal submissions.

Mr Rooney said: "I would prefer an Article 2/Article 8 protection because we are so far down the line in respect of the inquest."

He said that would speed up a decision but warned the journals had still to be fully deciphered.

Arlene (15) disappeared on August 13 1994 as she returned to her Castlederg home. Her body has never been found.

Chief suspect Robert Howard was acquitted of her murder in 2005 by a jury which was not told of his conviction for killing a south London teenager several years earlier. He died in prison last year.

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