Judges quash Coroner’s decision to restrict scope of inquest
A coroner in Birmingham was ordered to change his decision to stop an inquest jury from considering who carried out the 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings.
It follows a legal challenge by the Birmingham Pub Bombings’ victims’ families. A judicial review heard by two High Court judges in Birmingham quashed the decision by Sir Peter Thornton, QC, to exclude from the new hearings the issue of who carried out the bombings.
Mrs Justice Carr said: “We are minded to quash the decision which excluded the perpetrator issue and remit the case so as to enable him to reconsider the decision.”
A spokesman for the coroner said: “The coroner is committed to ensuring that the inquests start as soon as possible but now wishes to take some time to consider carefully the judgment by the High Court and its impact on the progress of the inquests.
“The coroner . . . will continue to work closely with the families and all interested persons as he progresses with his investigation.
“At present, a further pre-inquest review hearing is listed for 22 February 2018.”
Last July the coroner ruled that investigations into the identity of those responsible should not form part of the inquiry. Inquests into the attacks, which killed 21 people and injured 182 others, were adjourned in 1975 and reopened in 2016 after a long-running campaign by the victims’ families.
In their 13-page ruling Mrs Justice Carr and Lord Justice Simon said: “The first question is whether the coroner posed the right question on the scope of the inquests: whether the factual issue of the identity of the bombers (and those that assisted them) was sufficiently closely connected to the deaths to form part of the circumstances of the death. In our view, he did not.
“We do not agree that the jury would be unable to identify an individual involved in the planning, planting, procuring or authorising of the bombing without breaching the statutory prohibitions.
“A jury can plainly explore facts bearing on criminal and civil liability.” Solicitors representing the families welcomed the court ruling. Long-time campaigner Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was among the 21 killed in the bombings, said the ruling was “a very positive move forward” and a “common sense” decision.
“We truly hope that the coroner will now reconsider and realise that without the perpetrators in scope the inquest will make a mockery of our justice system,” she said.
In the ruling Judge Sue Carr said: “We are minded to quash the coroner’s decision which excluded the perpetrator issue and remit the case so as to enable him to reconsider the decision”.
A spokesman for the coroner, Mr Thornton, said he was “committed to ensuring that the inquests start as soon as possible but now wishes to take some time to consider carefully the judgment handed by the high court and its impact on the future progress of the inquests.
“The coroner is grateful for the considerable help and assistance he has had from all interested persons in the inquests to date.
“He will continue to work closely with the families and all interested persons as he progresses with his investigation into the tragic events in Birmingham 43 years ago. At present, a further pre-inquest review hearing is listed for February 22nd, 2018.”
Ms Hambleton thanked Lord Justice Simon and Mrs Justice Carr for the ruling and for “asking the coroner to go away and ask himself another question and that question is: who murdered our loved ones?”
The judges issued their ruling following the judicial review challenge by KRW Law which is representing ten of the families. No one has been convicted for the bombings since the wrongfully convicted Birmingham Six were freed in 1991.
Last year Dubliner Michael Christopher Hayes said he was part of the IRA group who carried out the 21 November 1974 bombings of the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town pubs which caused 21 deaths and maimed and inured 200 others. Mr Hayes said he was taking “collective responsibility” for all the IRA’s actions in England.
The 21 people killed were Michael Beasley (30) Lynn Bennett (18) Stanley Bodman (51) James Caddick (40) Thomas Chaytor (28) James Craig (34) Jane Davis (17) Paul Davis (20) Charles Gray (44) Maxine Hambleton (18) Anne Hayes (19) John Jones (51) Neil Marsh (20) Marylin Nash (22) Pamela Palmer (19) Desmond Reilly (20) Eugene Reilly (23) Maureen Roberts (20) John Rowland (46) Trevor Thrupp (33) Stephen Whalley (21).
You may also be interested in: