Legal aid row may prevent Robert Howard giving evidence at Arlene inquest

Arlene ArkinsonA Court has been told today that the appearance of a key witness at the inquest of a murdered Castlederg schoolgirl has been thrown into doubt because of a row over legal aid.
Robert Howard, who was acquitted of killing teenager Arlene Arkinson, has not been granted funding for legal representation at next year’s hearing, it was revealed.
Fifteen-year-old Arlene went missing in August 1994 after a night out at a disco in Bundoran.
Her body has never been found.
In 2005, Howard was found not guilty of murder but the jury was unaware he had a history of sex attacks and that two years earlier he was found guilty of murdering 14 year-old  Hannah Williams in south London.
A long-delayed inquest has been scheduled to take place at Omagh courthouse next April and is expected to last for just over two months.
Howard, who is serving a life sentence , has been named as a crucial witness.
His lawyers, who were unable to attend a preliminary hearing in Belfast’s Mays Chambers because legal aid funding had not been authorised, are set to challenge the payment delay through the High Court.
Mr Daly said Howard’s solicitors, from the firm Madden and Finucane, had written twice to the Department of Justice and were now seeking a judicial review.
Senior coroner John Leckey said the judge must be made aware that inquest proceedings have been instigated.
During the brief hearing it also emerged that police had disclosed 1500 documents relating to the teenager’s murder.
Another preliminary hearing has been scheduled for January 7 next year.


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