Any attempt to uncover the perpetrators would be “invidious”, according to Peter Thornton QC
The senior coroner presiding over the fresh inquests into the 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings has ruled out the naming of suspects.
Peter Thornton QC said the purpose of the inquest was not to determine who carried out the attacks, particularly given the “sheer size and complexity” of any potential investigation.
His decision came as part of a 15-page ruling which determined the scope of the hearings, which are due to begin later this year.
“To permit the identity of perpetrators to be within scope would be seen to be taking on the role of a proxy criminal trial,” he said.
“If this were to result in a determination identifying those responsible for the attacks that would, in my judgment, be unlawful.”
Mr Thornton added that any attempt to uncover the perpetrators – something which many have tried to establish over the past 43 years – would be “invidious”.
“The approach would inevitably be piecemeal and incomplete, mostly reliant upon persons named in books and in the press, mostly by journalists,” he explained.
A total of 21 people lost their lives when explosives ripped through two pubs in the centre of Birmingham – The Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town – on 21 November 1974, and a further 182 people were injured.
The Provisional IRA was accused of carrying out the attack though it never accepted responsibility, claiming that it went against everything it stood for.
Last year, it was announced that there were to be fresh inquests into the tragedy, something the relatives of those who died had been chasing for years.
However, Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was murdered that night, had previously said that “we may as well not bother having an inquest” if the matter of the suspects was not addressed.
A statement from KRW Law, the firm representing ten of the families, said: “Whether the inquest proposed by the coroner satisfies either the demands of the common law or human rights standards and can be read down in accordance with statutory provisions is a point that may require to be tested by way of litigation or by way another form of investigation, such as a statutory inquiry.
“It is clear that from the point of view of our clients in their quest for truth, justice and accountability, today is a sad day and will fuel the bitterness they already have.”