Birmingham pub bombings families to hear if potential suspects will be named

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Bereaved families of the IRA Birmingham pub bombings' victims will find out later if any potential suspects could be named at forthcoming inquests.

Lawyers for the deceased's relatives had asked for the scope of the hearings to include any new information about possible perpetrators, and evidence heard at the trial of the Birmingham Six in the 1970s.

The senior coroner Peter Thornton QC is due to make a decision on how wide the scope of fresh inquests, set for September, should be at a review hearing on Thursday.

Heather Williams QC, the lawyer for the family of brothers Eugene and Desmond Reilly, has asked that the inquests include evidence about the identities of suspects.

At a previous hearing, Mr Thornton QC asked if the barrister was suggesting individuals could be "named and shamed".

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.

Under current rules governing inquests, people suspected of any potential criminal or civil liability in evidence cannot be named in any conclusion by the coroner.

However, Ms Williams suggested the identities could and should still be part of any possible evidence at the hearings, expected to start in the autumn.

A botched police investigation into the attacks led to the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six - one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

Lawyers for government agencies, including West Midlands Police, have opposed the inclusion of identifying potential perpetrators, on the basis there is currently no "significant information" as to who they might be.

Peter Skelton, independent counsel for the coroner, said an inquest had a different function to a criminal court.

He said it was not an inquest's role to "redo the investigation" into the bombings, and it would be potentially unlawful to carry out a "retrial by proxy" in such a forum.

His comments, made at the pre-inquest review in Birmingham in May, prompted angry outbursts in court from the victims' relatives.