Minister quiet on pub bombings legal aid plea
THE Government has ignored pleas to ensure Birmingham pub bombing families have funding for a vital court case to help uncover the truth about the 1974 terrorist attack.
MPs from all parties took part in a House of Commons debate and urged the Government to ensure families of the 21 victims received funding so they could be properly represented at a Court of Appeal hearing.
But Justice Minister Lucy Frazer, responding on behalf of the Government, simply insisted: “This is a decision of the Legal Aid Agency independent of ministers”.
She was asked by Birmingham MP Richard Burden (Lab, Northfield) to find some other way of supporting the families if legal aid was not available. He pointed out that the relatives of those killed in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster received Home Office funding to ensure they had representation at hearings.
But in her response, Ms Frazer simply did not address this point at all.
The Minister was challenged outside the hearing by relatives of the pub bombing victims.
Julie Hambleton, a spokesper- son for the Justice4the21 campaign group, whose elder sister Maxine was one of the bombing victims, told her: “We are not second class citizens.
“Birmingham lives matter, just like Hillsborough lives matter, just like Grenfell lives matter.
“We are meant to live in an equal society.”
The families have been denied legal aid for their bid to ensure the people suspected of carrying out the 1974 bombings can be identified.
Coroner Sir Peter Thornton, who is overseeing the inquest, has ruled that suspects cannot be named.
He wants to exclude the perpetrators from the scope of the inquest which means it will avoid issues such as who bombed Birmingham, who organised the bombing, who ordered it, who made the bombs, who planted them and who their associates were.
The families contested that ruling at the High Court and won. The coroner responded by taking the case to the Court of Appeal, where the families will have to fight their corner again but they have been told they cannot receive funding for legal representation.
In practice, it places them at a huge disadvantage. A total of 21 people died and almost 200 were injured when IRA bombers attacked city centre bars The Mulberry Bush and The Tavern in The Town on November 21, 1974.
Mr Burden had asked for a House of Commons debate so that MPs could make the case for providing the families with financial support.
The wreckage of the Mulberry Bush pub in November 1974