‘Whitewash’ as coroner refuses naming of 1974 pub bombing suspects Victims’ families hit out at ‘travesty of legal process’
THE IRA men who planted the bombs that killed 21 people in two Birmingham pubs will not be named in new inquests into the deaths.
Former Chief Coroner of England and Wales Sir Peter Thornton QC has ruled that the identity of the Birmingham pub bombers cannot be within the scope of the hearings, despite hopes from the victims’ families.
He said it was “not in the public interest for the investigations and inquests to pursue unachievable, or indeed unlawful objectives.”
Furious families of the victims of the November 21, 1974 terror attacks said the ruling “makes a mockery and a whitewash of the inquests”.
Their lawyers are now examining the detail of Mr Thornton’s 15-page decision and are considering whether to make a legal challenge or appeal.
Meanwhile, the families are deciding whether to continue to take part in what they describe as “this travesty of legal process”.
In a formal statement, ten of the 11 families involved – those who belong to the Justice4the21 campaign group – said: “It is with anger and regret that we received today the decision of the Coroner.
“The Coroner ruled earlier this year that the resumed inquests would be compliant with human rights standards. We understood this to mean, and our legal team at KRW Law argued for, a wide scope to the inquests.
“This would include the systemic failings in the response of the emergency services and the issue of perpetrators – who they were, what was known about them before the bombings, who made the bombs and who planted them – and why the bombings led to imprisonment of the Birmingham Six.
“Following the advice of his counsel, and agreeing with the arguments of the West Midlands Police, the Devon and Cornwall Police and the Police Federation, the Coroner has decided that only in cases of individual deaths will failures of the emergency services be examined and that the question of perpetrators is not within the scope of the role of an inquest.
“Ruling out the question of perpetrators – whether named or not – makes a mockery and whitewash of these inquests and contradicts with the issue of perpetrators in the Legacy Inquests in Northern Ireland.
“Our legal team will be examining this decision on scope in order to assess whether to make a legal challenge of some form.
“The families, together with our supporters in the community, in the media and our local politicians and clergy, will be deciding whether our engagement in this travesty of legal process can continue.
“The process will not allay the concerns of our community, it will not be one in which we can express our right to truth and it will fail us, fail our loved ones and the people of Birmingham.”
Twenty-one people died and 182 were injured when The Mulberry Bush in the base of the Rotunda, and the nearby underground bar, The Tavern In The Town, were destroyed by bombers who have never been brought to justice.
The slaughter happened at the height of an IRA bombing campaign on the British mainland.
Announcing his ruling, Mr Thornton said: “I am acutely conscious that many of the families of the deceased consider that they suffer a continuing injustice.
“Their loved ones died from acts of mass killing and no one person has been brought to justice for these crimes.
“It is for this wholly understandable reason that they wish these inquests to cover as much ground as possible.
“I hope that these inquests will provide many answers about the events of November 21, 1974 and those who died.”
But he said he had to state “firmly and clearly” that the hearings had to comply with both statute and case law.
“It is for all these reasons that the inquests may not achieve, and could not realistically achieve, all that the families seek,” he admitted.
“That may be disappointing and frustrating. I understand that.
“But, even where no inquests have been held before, and where no person has been brought to justice, it is not in the public interest for these investigations and inquests to pursue unachievable, or indeed unlawful objectives.”
In his report he added: “To permit the identity of perpetrators to be within scope, would be seen as taking on the role, as one counsel put it, of a proxy criminal trial.
“If this were to result in a determination identifying those responsible for the attacks, that would in my judgment be unlawful.”
To permit the identity of perpetrators to be within scope would be seen as taking on the role of a proxy criminal trial Sir Peter Thornton
> The Justice for the 21 campaign led by Julie Hambleton, and right, the Mulberry Bush bomb after the bombings of November 21,1974