Birmingham bomb inquest delay as families push to have suspects named

Members of the Birmingham pub bombings campaign group, Justice4the21, outside Birmingham Priory Courts on Thursday
Members of the Birmingham pub bombings campaign group, Justice4the21, outside Birmingham Priory Courts on Thursday

Bereaved families of the IRA Birmingham pub bombings’ victims will have to wait to find out if any potential suspects could be named at forthcoming inquests.

Lawyers for the deceased’s relatives want the scope of the hearings to include any new information about possible perpetrators as well as evidence heard at the trial of the Birmingham Six in the 1970s.

The senior coroner Peter Thornton QC was due to make a decision on Thursday on how wide the scope of fresh inquests, set for September, would be.

However, he agreed to hear further submissions at the hearing, with families’ barrister Malachy McGowan telling the coroner the identity of perpetrators was “a central issue”.

Mr McGowan said: “The families are only seeking a full investigation into these deaths which considers who the perpetrators were.”

He said: “Without examining the perpetrators issue, we may as well not have an inquest at all.”

Many of the families have previously said they want new inquests to help in their campaign for “truth and justice” after the double bombings killed 21 people on November 21 1974.

Mr McGowan, on behalf of KRW Law, which represents at least a dozen families, used the example of how the Northern Ireland inquest into the Kingsmills massacre in Co Armagh in January 1976 had been carried out.

In those hearings, ciphers had been used to protect the identity of suspects.

Mr McGowan said that, although not a jury inquest, the Kingsmills hearings showed an inquest could “grapple with those difficulties” of identifying potential perpetrators.

Independent counsel for the coroner Peter Skelton has previously said an inquest’s role is not to “redo the investigation” into the bombings, and would be inappropriate to carry out a “retrial by proxy” in such a forum.

But Mr McGowan said: “It’s one of the central issues.”

Mr Thornton reserved his judgment on scope to be published within seven days.