Noah Donohoe: Private hearing to take place before inquest

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Image caption,
The teenager was found dead in a north Belfast storm drain in June 2020, six days after he went missing

There is to be a private hearing before Noah Donohoe's inquest into whether information in police files can be withheld, the Coroners Service says.

No date has been fixed - but it will come ahead of the inquest scheduled on 28 November.

Northern Ireland Secretary Shailesh Vara signed a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate which coroner Joe McCrisken will rule on.

The certificate has been brought by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and required ministerial approval.

Mr McCrisken will see all the material in unredacted form before having the final say on whether to approve the police request.

The use of a PII certificate is opposed by Fiona Donohoe who believes it is an attempt to cover up the circumstances of her son's death - the PSNI has ruled out foul play.

An online petition in support of all material being disclosed at the inquest has attracted more than 300,000 signatures.

The PSNI has continued to defend its actions.

PII certificates are more associated with terrorism cases, but they have been used before in other instances, such as the inquest of murdered schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson.

When asked how many certificates Northern Ireland Office (NIO) ministers sign annually, a spokesperson directed BBC News NI to making a Freedom of Information request.

In March, at a public meeting of the Policing Board, the PSNI stated that what it seeks to hold back is "a small amount" of detail contained within three larger files.

This includes the grading of intelligence information, "unique reference numbers", as well as details about investigative techniques and methods which, it said, are also used in "tackling terrorism and organised crime".

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan told the meeting: "I want to emphasise the contents of every intelligence document is being released."

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill has said using a PII certificate in the case is "totally unacceptable" and the Donohoe family deserves "to have the truth and transparency."