The inquest into the 1974 twin attacks is to be reopened.
Louise Hunt, senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, has ruled that the inquest into the 1974 twin attacks is to be reopened, following the emergence of new information.
The attacks, which took place on November 21, 1974, hit two busy pubs – The Tavern in the Town and The Mulberry Bush, killing 21 and injuring almost two hundred. Although the bombings are widely understood to have been carried out by individuals associated with the IRA, West Midlands Police failed to convict the perpetrators.
The initial investigation carried out by the force resulted in the imprisonment of six innocent individuals – commonly referred to as ‘The Birmingham Six’ – who were later released in 1991 following a successful appeal.
The decision to reopen the investigation was inspired by allegations that the conduct of West Midlands Police led to a miscarriage of justice. Following a review of the original inquest, Hunt expressed ‘serious concerns’ that police ‘failed to take the necessary steps to protect human life’. There is evidence to suggest that the force missed two warnings about the bombings prior to the event, leading some to claim that if appropriate action had been taken, the attacks could have been prevented. It has also been reported that, of 168 pieces of evidence presented during the original trial, thirty five have since been lost – including the remains of a third bomb that failed to detonate.
However, Hunt also stressed how some of the claims surrounding police conduct presently lack a secure foundation of evidence. Upon examination of the facts, Hunt dismissed the notion that the response of the emergency services contributed to the miscarriage of justice.
Although West Midlands Police initially argued that there was a lack of sufficient evidence to support a fresh investigation, Chief Constable Dave Thompson recently showed his support for the new inquest, stating that the original enquiry represented ‘the most serious failing in this force’s history’. Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Selly Oak, also welcomed the news, telling The Birmingham Mail that ‘if this inquest is a step towards finally giving people some answers then it has to be regarded as good.’
The ruling came as great news to families of the victims, who have campaigned for justice for many years, most notably through the creation of Justice4the21 – a group led by Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was a victim. Speaking to the press following the news of Hunt’s decision to reopen the investigation, Hambleton said, ‘all we want is to be heard […] if we don’t fight for truth, justice and accountability, then what we are basically enforcing and allowing is for any future terrorist group to come to any of our great cities and kill with impunity and without fear of retribution.’
Hambleton also urged the bombers to confess, saying, ‘do the right thing. If you have any level of humanity and any moral compass then by rights you should come forward.’
West Midlands Police are now cooperating with investigators to provide information regarding the events of the bombings. It is hoped that this inquest will shed light on claims of police corruption, and bring peace to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives.