A campaign group is seeking funds to pay for a judicial review challenging the terms of reference of an inquest into the deaths of the Birmingham Pub Bombings victims after a request for legal aid was denied.
Justice4the21 is asking legal professionals to donate what they can to fund a challenge to a coroner’s decision earlier this year to exclude the issue of who was responsible for the 1974 bombings.
Permission for judicial review was granted last month and the group now needs to raise £20,000 for legal and other fees.
The Gazette understands that Belfast-based human rights firm KRW Law is acting pro bono on behalf of the families but that funds are partly needed to cover barristers’ fees.
On 21 November 1974, 21 people were killed and many more injured by explosions at The Tavern In the Town and The Mulberry Bush pubs. Six men, known as the ‘Birmingham Six’, were convicted in 1975 but released 16 years later after their conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal afer a high-profile campaign. The IRA eventually admitted responsibility but none of the bombers has been convicted.
The Justice4the21 group, made up of friends and family of the victims, have mounted a long-standing campaign for for an inquest to determine who was responsible.
In June last year, resumption of an inquest, which had initially opened in 1974, was granted. However, in a ruling handed down this July His Honour Sir Peter Thornton QC said that the issue of who was responsible for the bombings should not form part of the proceedings.
The group, led by Julie Hambleton, whose sister was killed in the attack, said in a statement: ‘We vehemently disagree with his decision and need to challenge it.’
To fund the review the group need to raise £20,000 by 5 December.
Meanwhile, the Birmingham legal profession has been invited to attend a memorial service at Birmingham's St Philip's Cathedral next Tuesday to mark the 43rd anniversary of the bombings.
Ravi Singh-Chumber, partner at Rashid & Co Solicitors and Law Society council member for Birmingham & District, said the event would be an opportunity to show solidarity with the families of the victims. 'As lawyers and people who have a close affinity to the justice system, it is only right we support these families and friends of the victims in their fight, which surely is our fight too.’
A spokesperson for the Legal Aid Agency, said: ‘Our deepest sympathies remain with the families of the victims of the horrific Birmingham pub bombings. However, funding can only be granted to legal aid applications that satisfy the strict criteria set by law.’