UK Government amends legal aid rules so Northern Irish solicitors’ firm will be paid
Families of the victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings have won the right to legal aid for fresh hearings into the attack. The change in the law means they will be represented at the hearings as they seek to uncover further details about how much intelligence services new about the IRA threat in the city.
On 21 November 1974, a double-bombing at city centre pubs The Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush killed 21 people and left 182 others injured.
At the new hearings, evidence that the police ignored tip-offs about the attacks will be fully aired. The inquests will not be concerned with the wrongful convictions of the so-called Birmingham Six.
However, a spokesman for KRW Law, which is representing eight of the families, said the information uncovered in that case could prove useful.
“We want to look at the prior intelligence, if there was a failure to act, a failure to respond, and the use of intelligence.
“Obviously it won’t look at the miscarriage of justice, but if intelligence relied upon led to wrongful conviction then — ipso facto — the investigation of the event was flawed from the start,” a spokesman for the firm said.
Last summer, Louise Hunt, senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, announced the need for fresh inquests following the emergence of “significant” new information pertaining to the double-bombing. West Midlands police opposed fresh inquests, despite the new evidence coming to light that police might have allegedly ignored two tip-offs of an imminent IRA attack in the city.
Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was murdered in the attacks, welcomed the news of the hearings and has called for a full, in-depth look at the details of the bombings.
“We’ve got all these witnesses coming forward now and the information we have – if proved to be credible – has the potential to be extremely significant.
“As such we need as wide as possible a scope, not just going back to November 21, but possibly a year prior to 1974,” she said.
The hearings, which are expected to start in autumn, will be overseen by one of the country’s most senior coroners, Peter Thornton QC.