Birmingham bombs: '˜Exclude perpetrators and we might as well not have an inquest'
Lawyers for the coroner in charge of inquests into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings have said the hearings will not resolve the 'enduring injustice' for victims and their families.
Sir Peter Thornton QC is challenging a High Court ruling which ordered him to reconsider his decision to exclude an enquiry into the identities of those who “planted, planned, procured and authorised the bombs”.
The bombings of two city centre pubs – widely acknowledged to have been carried out by the IRA, but never admitted by it – killed 21 people and injured 182.
Outlining his submissions to the Court of Appeal, Peter Skelton QC said: “The 21 people who died in the bombings and their families have suffered an enduring injustice.
“So too have those who were injured and their families, and countless others who have been affected.
“The pain and grief they have borne has been exacerbated by the fact no-one has ever been held accountable in law.
“But, for the reasons the coroner gave ... these inquests cannot resolve the enduring injustice.”
Mr Skelton, representing the coroner, added that the victims, their families and the public interest “cannot be served” by a promised resolution that “cannot be delivered”.
Two High Court judges had quashed a decision by Sir Peter to exclude the “perpetrator issue” from the new hearings.
Ten families were in court on Tuesday to hear the appeal before the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, Lady Justice Hallett and Lord Justice McCombe.
Six men, known as the Birmingham Six, were imprisoned for the murders before their convictions were quashed.
Hugh Southey QC, representing the families, said there was the “most pressing need for a thorough investigation”.
He told the court: “There is no prospect of such an investigation occurring, apart from within the inquest. Despite that, the appellant decided not to investigate the issue of who was responsible...
“The families of the deceased said to the appellant that the investigation of this issue was so important to them that if it did not form part of the scope of the inquest ‘we may as well not have an inquest at all’.”
Speaking before the hearing, Mrs Hambleton said: “It will be utterly redundant to have the inquests unless the perpetrators, their associates and those who prepared and planted the bombs are included.”
She said supporters of the families’ campaign group Justice4the21 have so far raised £75,000 for the case after Mrs Hambleton was refused legal aid.
The group held a demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London in February, supported by members of the Football Lads Alliance.
The judges are expected to give their ruling at a later date.