PSNI defend their attempt to withhold certain material from Noah Donohoe inquest
Legal representatives for police insisted immunity status applications were not uncommon.
Police in Northern Ireland have defended their bid to withhold certain material relating to their investigation into the death of Noah Donohoe from an inquest.
Noah’s mother Fiona has criticised the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)’s attempt to secure Public Interest Immunity (PII) certification on sensitive material relating to the investigation that would otherwise be made known to her and other parties at inquest proceedings.
Late last month, she called for all police files relating to the investigation into Noah's death to be released at a rally on what would have been his 16th birthday.
She has also lodged a complaint with the PSNI watchdog, the NI Police Ombudsman, regarding how her son’s disappearance and death were investigated.
A pre-inquest review hearing took place on Wednesday, during which PSNI legal representatives reportedly said a PII application is not an uncommon feature in inquests.
Speaking before coroner Joe McCrisken, Donal Lunny QC said police would likely seek PII on a “limited amount” of material in three evidence folders.
“It is important to remember that PII applications are a not infrequent occurrence in inquests of all types and they occur for various reasons, including most commonly to protect police methodology,” he said.
“And it is ultimately going to be a matter for you sir, rather than my client, whether any PII application succeeds.”
Per reports, the relevant material will be circulated in redacted form to the inquest parties before the coroner takes submissions at a hearing on whether he should grant the immunity status.
Noah, a 14-year-old schoolboy who disappeared last June, was found dead in a storm drain in north Belfast six days after he went missing. He had been due to meet friends and cycled from his home in south Belfast through the city centre prior to his disappearance.
The inquest into Noah's death was originally scheduled to begin in January of next year but was postponed after legal representatives for the Donohoe family raised concerns that the PSNI were seeking to redact information in files relating to their investigation.
A senior officer told a meeting of the Policing Board that the coroner would assist in assessing what findings are relevant to the inquest and what should go forward for public interest immunity.
The next pre-inquest review is due to take place in February.