C: Fiona Donohoe via Twitter

35,000 people sign petition to ‘Release Noah Donohoe files’ in inquest

Over 30,000 people have signed a petition urging the police service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to release all files related to the Noah Donohoe case.

14-year-old Noah, who was a 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 from his home in the holylands area of the city after cycling to meet up with friends. Many unanswered questions remain surrounding the youngster’s tragic death.

His mother, Fiona, has appealed for transparency in the investigation into her son’s death, amid the news that ‘sensitive materials’ are being withheld by the police.

The PSNI are believed to plan on requesting a public-interest immunity (PII) certificate from court which would block full information disclosure in the case. In December, the PSNI defended its bid to withhold information from the Noah Donohoe inquest – which was set to take place on 10th January, but was delayed after his family raised concerns about the timescale.

In an update this week, a coroner said on Tuesday 8th February that he is not in a position to say when an inquest into the death of Noah will take place, due to the impact of “pandemic pressures” on availability of court facilities.

Coroner Joe McCrisken said that a “significant number” of criminal cases needed to be heard because Covid had led to a reduced number of court facilities being used. Fiona Donohoe is seeking answers to unanswered questions and ‘justice for Noah’ through the inquest process. 

At a pre-inquest review hearing, counsel for the coroner Sean Doran QC said all parties would welcome the certainty of a date for the full inquest.

Mr Doran said: “I do think we are at a stage now where most matters are fully attended to and we are getting to the stage where we would all wish to have the certainty of a hearing date in place in the near future.”

Brenda Campbell QC, counsel for Noah’s mother, told the hearing that she did not want an inquest date that was too far in the future.

The hearing was also given an update on the disclosure of PSNI material relating to Noah’s death.

Mr Doran said: “We are at the stage where nearly all of the materials listed have been disclosed to properly interested persons.

“The one area in respect of which disclosure has not yet been made to all properly interested persons is the sensitive materials.”

Earlier this month, Fiona Donohoe, speaking on the Anything Goes podcast, called for all police files relating to the investigation into the death of her son to be released in full. She also made an appeal to witnesses to come forward with any information – even something that might seem insignificant – to piece together the puzzle that remains unsolved almost two years after her son’s death. 

The files have not yet been released and Ms Donohoe says police have requested a public-interest immunity (PII) certificate from court which would block full information disclosure in the case.

A public-interest immunity is a principle under which courts can grant a court order allowing one litigant to refrain from disclosing evidence to the other litigants where disclosure would be damaging to the public interest. This is an exception to the usual rule that all parties in litigation must disclose any evidence that is relevant to the proceedings.

PII orders have previously been used in criminal law against large organised criminal outfits and drug dealers where the identity of paid police informants could be at risk. 

Making a fresh appeal for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to release all the files relating to the investigation, Ms Donohoe told podcast host James English: “We will never be able to get justice if we don’t get the information.” She said she believes pressure needs to be put on the Secretary of State, who will make the decision whether or not to release the files relating to the investigation in full. 

“I will not let this happen,” the much-loved school boy’s mother said of the possibility of the police obtaining a PII certificate, adding: “We won’t be able to get justice for my baby if we don’t get all the information.”

I Want Answers for my SON – The Noah Donohoe Story – YouTube

The petition on change.org has been signed by tens of thousands of people who believe it is in the public interest for those files to be released. It reads: “Noah Donohoe was a 14 year old child who went missing on 21st June 2020 in Belfast and was found 6 days later in a storm drain, naked, in an area of belfast he did not know.”  

“Yet Noah’s mother has now been told that Police are trying to WITHHOLD INFORMATION (4 files of Disclosure) by applying to Secretary of State for a Public Interest Immunity Certificate.

“This would mean Noah will never get Justice because the TRUTH would be hidden.

This petition is to tell the Police and those in office  (who are Public Servants) that we the PUBLIC believe it is in OUR INTEREST and NOAH’S INTEREST and ALL OUR CHILDREN’S INTERESTS that those files are released.”

In an update on Tuesday, Fiona Donohoe said, via Twitter, that she had been made aware that the police are ‘definitely’ applying for public interest immunity on the investigation. She questioned why a PII order would be needed in an investigation they called “no foul play” before formal identification of Noah had taken place. Ms Donohoe said her petition campaign was ‘time critical’ and she urged people to sign as the date for Noah’s inquest approaches. 

As the family’s relentless campaign for answers continues, new billboards were erected around Belfast emblazoned with the text, ‘We will never stop’:

 

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