The inquests into the deaths of 21 victims in the 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings are to be reopened after the Senior Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull said there had been a “wealth of evidence that still has not been heard” about the attacks.
The double bombing on 21st November 1974 is widely acknowledged to have been the work of the IRA. It left 21 victims dead and another 222 seriously injured. The original hearings into the deaths of the 21 victims were not continued after the jailing of six men, whose convictions were later overturned by the Court of Appeal in 1991, after a flawed investigation by the West Midlands force was revealed. After serving nearly 17 years in prison, this was considered to be one of the worst miscarriages of justices in Britain.
The coroner has heard evidence that West Midlands Police had missed two potential warnings of the bomb attacks. It included a comment made by men linked to the IRA in an overheard conversation that “Birmingham would be hit next week”. On the day of the attack, a second tip-off to the police was not followed up. West Midlands Police argued the coroner did not have the jurisdiction to hear the inquests, however this submission was rejected.
Whilst the purpose of an inquest is not to apportion blame, but to establish how the victims died, we have seen in Hillsborough how as part of this process fresh evidence can come to light many years after. This evidence potentially provides the CPS the opportunity to pursue fresh criminal charges if appropriate.
The coroner said she had no doubt that ascertaining the truth about what happened on the evening of 21st November would be difficult but that there was evidence that needed to be heard. Clearly this will not be a straightforward and easy process, however after 40 years of waiting for justice and accountability, this decision is a huge breakthrough for the 21 victims and their families.
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