Child killer appeals legal aid refusal over schoolgirl’s disappearance

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A CONVICTED child killer is to launch a High Court challenge over the decision to refuse him additional legal aid, for an inquest into a schoolgirl’s disappearance.

Robert Howard, 69, an inmate at HMP Frankland, in Durham, is due to give evidence from behind prison bars during the probe into Arlene Arkinson’s presumed death, in Northern Ireland.

His lawyers argue the funding provided by Stormont’s Justice Department to cover the sex attacker’s legal costs is insufficient.

The 15-year-old girl, from Castlederg in County Tyrone, went missing in August 1994 after a night out at a disco across the Irish border in County Donegal.

Her body was never found.

In 2005, Howard, the last person seen with her, was cleared of her murder, but the jury was unaware of his history of sex attacks and conviction for murdering south London teenager Hannah Williams.

He is serving a life sentence at the prison, on the outskirts of Durham, and has been named as a crucial witness in the inquest, scheduled to start later this year, after a near seven-year delay.

Howard’s barrister, Dessie Hutton, said a judicial review would be launched and warned his legal team needed more time to consider issues they would raise, before an inquest could be heard.

Publicly-funded legal aid is not automatically given to those appearing in inquests and witnesses have to seek a grant to cover their costs.