Families welcome ruling over scope of inquests into Birmingham pub bombings

Families of those killed in the Birmingham pub bombings have welcomed a legal ruling ordering a coroner to reconsider his decision to restrict the scope of inquests into the atrocity.

A judicial review heard by two High Court judges quashed a previous decision by coroner Sir Peter Thornton to exclude the issue of the perpetrators of the 1974 bombings from the new hearings.

The coroner ruled in July last year that investigations into the identity of those responsible for the atrocities should not form part of his inquiry.

His decision had prompted many of the families of those killed to consider boycotting the new inquests into the attacks, which left 21 people dead and more than 200 injured.

In the latest ruling, handed down in Birmingham on Friday, Mrs Justice Carr said: "We are minded to quash the coroner's decision which excluded the perpetrator issue and remit the case so as to enable him to reconsider the decision."

Spokeswoman for the victims' campaign group Justice4the21, Julie Hambleton, thanked members of the public who helped pay for the legal challenge, which cost almost £40,000.

Birmingham pub bombings inquest
Julie Hambleton, who leads the Justice4the21 campaign and whose sister Maxine died in the Birmingham pub bombings, speaks outside the Priory Court in Birmingham

Speaking outside Birmingham's civil law courts, Ms Hambleton said the inquests - which were adjourned in 1975 and reopened in 2016 after a long-running campaign - would be a "mockery" without their scope being widened.

Ms Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died in the bombings, told reporters: "Today's decision is the right decision. Common sense has finally prevailed.

"We would like to thank Lord Justice Simon and Mrs Justice Carr for hearing our appeal and for asking the coroner to go away and ask himself another question, and that question is 'Who murdered our loved ones?'

"Twenty-one people were murdered en masse 43 years ago. People forget that there are murderers out there walking free on our streets, either in the United Kingdom, in Ireland or elsewhere.

"We are here, having to fight the very people who are meant to represent us - to give us truth, justice and accountability.

"We truly hope that the coroner will now reconsider ... and realise that without the perpetrators in scope, the inquest will make a mockery of our justice system.

"We would hope and pray that the coroner makes the common sense decision."

A spokesman for the inquests said: "The coroner is committed to ensuring that the inquests start as soon as possible but now wishes to take some time to consider carefully the judgment handed by the High Court and its impact on the future progress of the inquests."

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