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Families threaten boycott of IRA Birmingham pub bombs inquest


Aftermath of one of the bombings

Aftermath of one of the bombings

Aftermath of one of the bombings

Relatives of people who died in the Birmingham pub bombings have threatened to boycott the start of a fresh inquest into the IRA attacks.

A new hearing into the 1974 atrocities, which killed 21 people and wounded 220 others, is set to open next Monday, February 25.

The families say a decision not to award them sufficient legal aid funding for lawyers to properly represent them means they will be left with more questions than they started with.

There are also concerns that vital documents relevant to the atrocities have disappeared.

IRA bombs devastated the Mulberry Bush and Tavern In The Town pubs in central Birmingham on November 21, 1974.

A third bomb, planted outside a bank, was destroyed in a controlled explosion.

Julie Hambleton (55), a sister of one of the victims, 18-year-old Maxine Hambleton, told The Observer newspaper: "Something is seriously amiss, it's absolutely outrageous. We are meant to have a judiciary system that is the envy of the world, but we're going to be left with more questions than we started with."

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She also said she was 'incredulous' that no police force or government department, and no military intelligence agency, has said it has any material of relevance to the inquest.

Two folders containing sensitive information from the security services and GCHQ, the government intelligence and security organisation, have also gone missing, the newspaper reported.

The families are represented by Belfast-based legal firm KRW Law.

It has been awarded just a tenth of the legal aid it had applied for to represent the families.

There are no such financial constraints on the legal teams representing public agencies such as the police at the forthcoming hearing.

Christopher Stanley of KRW told The Observer that the families were concerned about the integrity of the inquest.

"We could walk away, we could boycott it. We could advise on that. We have discussed putting down tools because we have to act in the best interests of our clients," he said.

"An intelligent person in their position might say: 'What is the point in me engaging in this'?"

One option for the families, if they decide to boycott the inquest, would be to pursue a judge-led inquiry along the lines of the 2011 investigation by Sir William Gage into the death of Baha Mousa, who died in British army custody in Iraq.

The inquest, which is due to last for five weeks, will not address the question of which individuals planted the bombs, nor will it address whether there was any forewarning from any British spies within the IRA's ranks.

Instead, the inquest will centre on the nature of the IRA warnings and the response of the emergency services.

Those responsible for the attacks have not been prosecuted and the original inquest in 1974 was adjourned to allow the criminal investigation to take place, but never reopened.

The Birmingham Six were jailed for the murders and served 17 years behind bars before their convictions were quashed.

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