Families pleas for help with costs of legal representation supported by coroner
The coroner presiding over the inquest into the Birmingham Pub Bombings has lent his support to the victims’ families, saying they are entitled to legal funding for “proper” representation.
Peter Thornton QC convened the first pre-inquest hearing into the atrocities on 28 November but made it clear that he had no power to enforce the funding. However, he was definitive in his belief that the bereaved families from the 1974 double bombing have every right to campaign for the financial assistance.
“I commend the application for legal funding for those who are considering them.
“Not all families will want to be legally represented but for those who do, there is a compelling case for proper legal representation,” Mr Thornton said.
“I do wish to say I support the applications of those families who wish to participate fully in these inquests by way of legal representation.”
The coroner added that the events require a “full and fair investigation” so far as the law will allow.
On 21 November 1974, the IRA planted two bombs at The Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs, killing 21 and injuring 182 others. A botched police investigation led to the wrongful arrest and conviction of six Northern Irishmen who became known as the Birmingham Six.
The original calls for fresh inquests were rebuffed but, earlier this year, Birmingham senior coroner Louise Hunt ordered new hearings. “I have serious concerns that advanced notice of the bombs may have been available to the police and that they failed to take the necessary steps to protect life,” she said.
The next preliminary hearing will be held on 23 February with full inquest hearings likely to be heard in September 2017 at the earliest.
The Government had previously rejected the families’ request to make use of a special funding model used in the Hillsborough disaster inquiry. Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister, Maxine, in the bombings, again argued that similar funding could be made available for this case.
“If we don’t get this funding that will mean that the imbalance of the scales of justice are so bent in one direction towards the state, the inquest cannot possibly move forward,” she said. “The government have a discretionary fund all right. They gave this discretionary fund to the Bloody Sunday families… they gave this discretionary fund to the Hillsborough families.
“The English legal aid agency funded English lawyers to make a case in Northern Ireland for a civil case for some of the Omagh bombing families… so why oh why are we having to fight and beg with a bowl to get what everyone else has had?”
Ms Hambleton also expressed her support to those who were considering applying for funding and welcomed the backing of Mr Thornton.