Judge To Announce Result Of Birmingham Pub Bombing Inquest Appeal

26 September 2018, 07:13

Birmingham Pub Bombing 1974

Leading judges are to announce the result of an appeal by the coroner in charge of inquests into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings over the scope of the hearings.

Sir Peter Thornton QC has challenged a High Court ruling made earlier this year which ordered him to reconsider his decision to exclude an inquiry into the identities of those who "planted, planned, procured and authorised the bombs".

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Lady Justice Hallett and Lord Justice McCombe will give their decision on the coroner's appeal on Wednesday.

The bombings in two city centre pubs, widely believed to be the work of the IRA, killed 21 people and injured 182, making it the deadliest peacetime attack in the UK at the time.

The coroner ruled in July last year that investigations into the identity of those responsible for the atrocities should not form part of his inquiry.

Six men, known as the Birmingham Six, were imprisoned for the murders and served 17 years behind bars in one of Britain's most infamous miscarriages of justice before their convictions were quashed.

Five West Midlands Police officers were charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with the original criminal investigation, but a judge ruled in 1993 that a fair trial would be impossible.

During the appeal proceedings before the three judges in July, lawyers for the coroner said the hearings will not resolve the "'enduring injustice" for victims and their families.

Peter Skelton QC, representing the coroner, said the victims , their families and the public interest "cannot be served" by a promised resolution that "cannot be delivered".

Two High Court judges, sitting in Birmingham in January, quashed the decision by Sir Peter to exclude the "perpetrator issue" from the new hearings.

Their ruling followed a judicial review brought on behalf of the bereaved families by Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was 18 when she was killed in the bombings.

Mrs Hambleton, spokeswoman for the victims' campaign group Justice4the21, has said it would be "utterly redundant to have the inquests unless the perpetrators, their associates and those who prepared and planted the bombs are included".

Hugh Southey QC, representing the families, told the appeal judges: "There is the utmost public interest in the proper investigation of who was responsible for the Birmingham bombings.

"The families of the deceased said to the appellant (Sir Peter) that the investigation of this issue was so important to them that if it did not form part of the scope of the inquest 'we may as well not have an inquest at all'."