Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974: Note of Hearing before Senior Coroner, Mrs Louise Hunt

Wed, 23 Mar 2016

In an update on the Birmingham Pub Bombings Case, the Birmingham and Solihull Senior Coroner, Louise Hunt, is expected to hear further submissions in relation to the inquest on April 6th.

The hearing originally scheduled for March 23rd, has now been cancelled and will be held, in the Council Chamber at Solihull’s Civic Suite, on the 6th April at 10am. The Senior Coroner will then deliver her decision on May 12th at the same venue. 

In 10 February 2016 the Senior Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Mrs. Louise Hunt, heard an application by KRW LAW LLP on behalf of three families who lost loved ones in the Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974.

Legal submissions were advanced on behalf of the families, the Police Federation, West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police. These focused on whether the Senior Coroner has the power to resume the inquest into the deaths of the 21 people who lost their lives on 21 November 1974 and, if so, whether there is sufficient reason for her to do so. The Senior Coroner also heard detailed legal submissions on whether a death which occurred before the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force will attract a procedural obligation to hold an Article 2 ECHR compliant inquest. 

Ashley Underwood QC and Malachy McGowan BL represented three of the families in the preliminary hearing on 10 February 2016. Nageena Khalique QC from No5 Chambers Birmingham also attended the hearing having recently joined the legal team and is expected to represent the interests of the families of some of the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings. 

Although the Senior Coroner has deferred her decision on whether to resume the inquests, Counsel for the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Jeremy Johnson QC, informed the Senior Coroner that three new sources of information are being examined, including fresh forensic evidence, and that the investigation is not closed. The Senior Coroner was told that West Midlands Police would have “no difficulty in responding to directions for disclosure”, albeit that it would be a “huge undertaking.” The Senior Coroner  was told that as many as 35 of the 168 exhibits used as evidence at the Lancaster Crown Court trial in 1975 are thought to have been lost. 

After hearing legal submissions from the parties, the Senior Coroner stated that in the absence of any evidence from West Midlands Police she was in an “evidential vacuum”. She stated “I need to adjourn to receive the evidence that I need to make the decision that I need to make”.

Giving West Midlands Police until 4 March 2016 to respond, the Senior Coroner asked for information about any informant in the IRA unit, any advance warning of the bombs, any delays in evacuating the bars, whether “reasonable steps” were taken on the night, whether records had been falsified, and for a full list of the evidence that has been lost. That date has now been extended by permission of the Senior Coroner and all Interested Persons have been asked to sign an undertaking regarding confidentiality relating to the material.

The Senior Coroner stated that there will be another hearing for any additional submissions, and she set a provisional date of 6 April 2016 for her decision.

Nageena Khalique QC and Rachel Thomas (pupil), of No5 Chambers, attended the hearing in support of the families and the Justice for the 21 campaign. 

No5 Chambers are committed to helping the families who lost their loved ones in such tragic circumstances and to finally get justice after so many years of searching for answers. 

The team from No5 led by Nageena Khalique QC are working closely with leading lawyers Kevin Winters, Christopher Stanley and Barry O’Donnell from KRW LAW LLP and the Justice for the 21 Campaign in their search for the truth, justice and accountability through the inquest process. This is in the interest of the wider community of Birmingham and something close to all our hearts.

For further information contact Tony McDaid or James Parks on 0121 606 0500 or by email [email protected].

Click here to read the article in the Birmingham Mail

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