Birmingham Bombing inquest can name suspects, British court rules

The British Coroner has been ordered to reconsider his previous ruling

Birmingham Bombing inquest can name suspects, British court rules

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died in the Birmingham pub bombings, speaks outside the Priory Court in Birmingham, 26-01-2017. Image: Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images

The families of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings have moved a step closer to learning the names of those responsible.

The IRA bombings took the lives of 21 people and injured hundreds more in November 1974.

The Birmingham Six were wrongly imprisoned for the attacks in 1975 - but no one else has been prosecuted since they were freed in 1991.

This afternoon, a judicial review heard by two UK High Court judges ordered the coroner to reconsider his decision not to name the suspects of the Birmingham pub bombings in fresh inquests.

Proxy criminal trial

In early July, the chief coroner of England and Wales Peter Thornton QC ruled out the naming of possible suspects, claiming that including their identities could see the new hearings "taking on the role of a proxy criminal trial."

He warned that any inquest ruling which indentified suspects would be unlawful.

The judicial review followed a legal challenge taken by victims' families who were furious at the coroners ruling.

Justice4the21

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died in the Birmingham pub bombings, speaks outside the Priory Court in Birmingham, 26-01-2017. Image: Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images

In August, the Justice4the21 campaign launched a crowd-funding campaign aiming to raise the funds to take out the challenge.

Speaking outside the High Court today Julie Hambleton - who lost her sister Maxine in the blast at 'Tavern in the Town' - thanked the judges for their ruling.

She questioned what the point of having an inquest would be "without the perpetrator issue being mentioned."

"The government do not want us to know the truth," she said.

"The Government have papers. There are people out there who have written books, they have written films."

"We are calling on you; anyone who has any information; please, please, we beg you, come forward.

"43 years; 21 people murdered en masse and we are still having to fight for truth justice and accountability.

Inquest

While the actions taken by emergency services following the attacks will not be examined, evidence will be heard on whether police were twice tipped off about the the attack before the bombs went off.

Ms Hambleton said the victims can now "only but hope and pray" that coroner Peter Thornton agrees to reverse his decision and include potential suspects within the scope of the hearing.

"It is logical and common sense for you to have the perpetrators," she said.

"If the perpetrators are not part of the scope, then the inquest will be utterly redundant and a waste of tax payers money.

"That is the last thing that we want to do.

"That is not the legacy that we want to leave behind for our loved ones and for everybody else."

The ruling could yet have an impact on the timeframe of the inquests.

A spokesperson for the coroner has said he remains committed to ensuring they start as soon as possible but warned that he "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."