Birmingham pub bombings: Families ‘refused legal aid’ ahead of judicial review

The families of Birmingham pub bombing victims say they have been refused public funding to challenge a ruling that suspects should not be named.

Nov 15, 2017

The families of Birmingham pub bombing victims say they have been refused public funding to challenge a ruling that suspects should not be named. Justice4the21 campaigners say the legal aid snub has left them with their “backs against the wall” ahead of a judicial review next month. The group representing ten pub bombings families must now raise £20,000 within days to pay for legal representation. They are fighting a coroner`s decision that IRA suspects will not be named at new inquests into the 1974 attacks. They want barristers to challenge Coroner Sir Peter Thornton’s stance on excluding the issue of the perpetrators from the scope of the new inquest into the 21 deaths. Campaigners claim their bid has been thrown out while public funding has been made to the Coroner to defend his ruling. Spokesperson Julie Hambleton, whose elder sister Maxine was killed in the terror atrocities, said: “We have been informed that an application for legal aid to fund our judicial review challenge against The Ruling on Scope made by the Coroner for the Birmingham Pub Bombings Inquests 1974 has been refused. “Our challenge is to argue against his decision to rule out of the investigation the issue of perpetrators – who made the bombs, who directed them, who carried them, who planted them and their associates. “We had raised over £15,000 from Crowd Justice to make the application to apply for permission to judicially review his ruling. “We went to the Legal Aid Agency because a judge found that there was sufficient merit for the challenge to be heard before a panel of judges – the Legal Aid Agency appears not to think there is such merit or sufficient public interest to award public funding for such an important challenge. “This is despite the public funding being made to the Coroner and others to defend his ruling. “We are therefore now with our backs against the wall – again – with important deadlines to be met before the two day hearing in December and urgently require £20,000 to continue to fund our legal representation so we can argue our case at its highest.” December 6 and 7 were initially set aside for the High Court hearing but the lack of funding lessens the chance that it will proceed. When Mr Thornton made his announcement he said it is “not in the public interest for these investigations, and inquests to pursue unachievable, or indeed unlawful objectives”. Ten of the families responded by saying that unless the issue of the bombers was investigated there was little point in the inquests going ahead. And they boycotted the following pre inquest review hearing in protest, saying that unless the decision was reversed they would take no further part in the process. Two Birmingham pubs, The Mulberry Bush and The Tavern in The Town were destroyed in attacks in November 1974 at the height of a mainland bombing campaign by IRA terrorists. A total of 21 people died and almost 200 were injured. In the summer Police Professional reported that the Garda Síochána had been urged to interview self-confessed IRA bomb maker Michael Hayes.

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