Judicial review of Birmingham pub bombing inquests welcomed by lawyers
The scope of inquests of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings could be widened after permission was granted for a judicial review, lawyers say.
KRW Law, the Belfast law firm that is representing the families of ten victims, called it an “important achievement in the ongoing quest for truth, justice and accountability for our clients”.
The inquests will explore the circumstances of the deaths of the 21 people killed in the IRA bombings of two pubs in 1974. 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.
A coroner had ruled out naming alleged suspects in evidence, but the campaign group Justice4the21 is fighting to have that overturned. KRW Law has applied for a judicial review on the scope of the inquests, which has been granted for November 27.
Anurag Deb, a legal executive at the firm, said: “Being granted permission to challenge the ruling on scope of the coroner will enable us to pursue the perpetrator issue before the judges in the divisional court, which will engage important points of law relating to the investigations of historic human rights violations.”
Jonathan Wheeler, managing partner at the London law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, said the case was symptomatic of the legal aid funding crisis. “The fact that Justice4the21 have turned to a funding appeal to source the money required for a legal bid because the formal application process would take too long is indicative of the broken legal aid system in the UK. But away from public attention, families have little hope of obtaining legal aid for ‘standard’ inquests,” he said.
“In inquests up and down the country, families are unrepresented by a legal team, though have to deal with public bodies who can draft in lawyers paid for by public funds. The government consistently claims the process isn’t adversarial, making legal representation unnecessary in their view. But this raises the question, why do professional or public bodies still need that representation?
“Ultimately all families should be provided legal aid for representation at an inquest to establish equality of arms. We need to protect families and bring public body budgets to account.”