Inquests cannot decide who bombed Birmingham: lawyer

File photo dated 22/11/74 of the exterior of the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham after a bomb exploded.
File photo dated 22/11/74 of the exterior of the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham after a bomb exploded.

There has never been a “full and independent investigation” into who carried out the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, lawyers for the victims’ relatives have told a court.

Ten of the bereaved families were at the High Court in Birmingham on Wednesday in a legal bid to overturn coroner Sir Peter Thornton QC’s ban on the identification of suspects at fresh inquests.

The relatives are asking for a judicial review of that decision.

In opening submissions their barrister Adam Straw said: “There’s been no full and independent investigation for who was responsible.”

However, Sir Peter’s barrister said that inquests were not the correct arena to consider who carried out the bombings, and risked turning forthcoming hearings into a “proxy criminal trial”.

In written submissions for the coroner, his barrister Peter Skelton QC concluded that the claimants wanted “a public conclusion about who bombed Birmingham”.

“That aim is entirely legitimate and understandable,” he said. “But it is not one that these inquests can achieve.”

The city centre double bombings, which had been blamed on the IRA from the outset, killed 21 people.

Six men, known as the Birmingham Six, were imprisoned for the murders and served 17 years behind bars before their convictions were quashed.

Senior coroner Louise Hunt allowed new inquests after hearing evidence the state may have been protecting a government informant, and that the police had allegedly ignored two tip-offs.

The hearing, which will include detailed legal arguments by both sides, is set to last two days.

The new inquests are on hold until the High Court justices deliver their ruling.