By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
An inquest into the death of Noah Donohoe should be heard in front of a jury, a lawyer for the schoolboy’s family has said.
The inquest into Noah’s death is scheduled to begin on November 28th and to run for three weeks.
The 14-year-old pupil at St Malachy’s College in Belfast, was found dead in a storm drain in north Belfast in June 2020, six days after he went missing.
His mother Fiona is hoping to secure answers to some of the questions surrounding his death through the inquest process.
At a pre-inquest review hearing, Brenda Campbell QC, representing Ms Donohoe, raised concerns over the November date.
She said: “We are very appreciative of the difficulties that the listing of this inquest has, we know the pressures on the court.
“The date gives us three, three and a half weeks before the Christmas break and there are a very significant number of both complex and distressing issues to be considered and we are concerned that might not be enough time.”
She added: “We have not yet grappled with the issue of whether this is going to be a jury inquest. In our submission it should be a matter that is considered by a jury.
“If that is the case, and we have been working on the assumption that it will be, again that inevitably adds to time and the impact of any break.”
Coroner Joe McCrisken said he would welcome written submissions from Noah’s family on the issue of whether the inquest should be held with a jury.
The hearing was also told that an application from the PSNI to to prevent certain information being disclosed to the inquest would be sent to the Northern Ireland Office for approval by a minister “imminently”.
Counsel for the coroner, Sean Doran QC, said that the PSNI had completed their consideration of Public Interest Immunity (PII) certification on sensitive material.
He said: “It remains a matter for the relevant government authority whether a PII certificate will be issued.”
Barrister for the PSNI, Donal Lunny QC, told the hearing that the deputy chief constable Mark Hamilton had examined the PII applications in “some detail” and this had prompted a “reconsideration of a number of proposed redactions”.
He added: “That work was resumed and completed yesterday and that material will be passed on to the NIO imminently. I would expect that to be done this week.
“Once they have it they should be able to give an indication as to how long it will take for their minister to consider it and decide whether or not to grant a public interest immunity certificate.”
Mr McCrisken said: “I urge the NIO, once they receive the papers, to carry out this exercise as quickly as possible.”
Ms Campbell said: “The volume of material I understand is three folders, in the region of 188 pages, 120 pages and 200 pages.
“The proposed redactions, as we understand it, are to the minimum possible.”
The next pre-inquest review hearing will be held on July 1st.