The senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Louise Hunt, yesterday reopened the inquest into the 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings. The decision, prompted by a information that suggested that the security service had prior and ample notice of the attacks comes after six wrongful convictions, an inquest without a verdict and 42 years of unanswered questions for the victims of the 21 people that lost their lives during the attacks.
Paddy Hill, one of the six men were wrongly convicted of the attacks in 1975 and spent 16 years in prison for something he did not do, welcomed the decision of the coroner but said he was ‘very sceptical about getting the truth’. Speaking outside the coroner’s court in Solihull, he told the Guardian that he was ‘very pleased’. ‘It is the first step there has ever been taken to find the real truth behind the Birmingham pub bombings – the massive cover-up by the judiciary, government and the Birmingham police over the last 41 years. That coverup is still going on today.
Hill, in an interview given to the Justice Gap on the 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six earlier this year, said: ‘We are getting a bit closer to finding out the truth,’ he said. You can read Paul May, who chaired the Birmingham Six campaign, on the legacy of that case here (25 years on, and it’s harder than ever for innocent prisoners to achieve justice).
What happened to us should never have happened. The Birmingham police allowed the guilty people to get away with it. If they had done their job properly, they would’ve caught the people responsible.
Two years ago Paddy Hill joined forces with the families of those killed in the Birmingham pub bombings to overturn a 75 year ‘guarantee of silence’ that covers the case. The case is subject to 75 year public interest immunity certificate. We then spoke to Julie Hambelton who has been campaigning for a public inquiry as part of the Justice4the 21 campaign. One of those murdered was her sister Maxine (pictured) who was just 18 years of age when she died.
Yesterday, Hambleton said that the news was ‘momentous’. ‘This is the most important day in our lives and for the memory of our loved ones,’ she said. Writing for the Justice Gap, Hambleton had condemned the reluctance of the Birmingham Police to continue investigating the bombings.
The West Midlands Police Chief Constable, Chris Sims told my family that ‘due to the passage of time we don’t believe it is in the best interests to continue as we have no new evidence’. I asked him, was it not the job of the police to go looking for new evidence?
Her article can be found here.
Writing for the Guardian, the former MP Chris Mullin, who campaigned for the release of the Birmingham Six and wrote about the case in his book Error of Judgement, wrote about his ‘mixed feelings‘. ‘If there is any genuinely new evidence then by all means examine it, but so long after the event there is a danger that a renewed inquiry will arouse expectations that cannot be fulfilled and lead only to more disappointment and heartache for the families of the victims.’
Following the decision of the coroner, pre-inquest hearings will now take place and a full hearing is not expected until next year.
Author: Caterina Franchi
Caterina is a Solicitor at Wilson Solicitors LLP. She specialises in immigration, asylum and human rights law. She volunteers for the Liberty Advice Line.