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Birmingham Pub bomb families denied legal aid again angry at funds award to rapist Worboys

By Donna Deeney

A sister of a woman killed in the Birmingham pub bombings has hit out after families of the victims were again refused legal aid.

Relatives have twice sought public funding in their challenge against a coroner's decision not to allow suspects in the IRA attack to be named during a new inquest.

Twenty-one people died when two bombs exploded in the city centre in 1974.

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was among the victims, referred to recent revelations that black cab rapist John Worboys had been awarded £166,000 in legal aid since his arrest in 2007.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: "We were refused legal aid twice (but) John Worboys, the convicted criminal rapist, gets legal aid.

"It has been reported he has assets worth £1million - but he didn't have to fight for legal aid, while they keep refusing us.

"All we are looking for is truth, justice and accountability, but they are fighting us tooth and nail.

"We are not criminals like John Worboys, nor were our loved ones. They were 21 innocent people, but there is no help for us from the Ministry of Justice."

Inquest hearings were held days after the bombings in 1974, but closed without hearing any evidence.

The victims' families have fought for years to have the inquests reopened.

In January, two High Court judges ruled that coroner Sir Peter Thornton QC was wrong to decide that the names of the suspects would not be part of the new inquests. Sir Peter has applied for permission to appeal the judgment.

It means the Justice4the21 campaign group will have to raise the funds to pay for legal representation if the coroner is allowed to take his fight to exclude the identities of the suspects to the Court of Appeal.

The Birmingham families had initially applied for legal aid to challenge an original decision not to name suspects, but were turned down.

Instead, funds donated from the public allowed the families to go ahead with the challenge, which was successful. However, Sir Peter's appeal means the group face a fresh fight to fund their court bid.

Ms Hambleton added: "The legal aid application which was made in my name is about 20 pages long and they ask you about every possible aspect of your finances.

"I don't earn very much money but they told me I am still above their threshold and yet there is Worboys with all these assets and he is handed thousands.

"This has added further insult to our campaign for truth, justice and accountability and to the memory of our relatives.

"Awarding John Worboys legal aid has enraged us so much.

"This cannot be morally acceptable - how can it be right, fair and just to award a convicted rapist legal aid while refusing us?

"Decisions like this just retraumatises us and makes us wonder what our loved ones did to be insulted like this.

"We are apoplectic with anger but we will not let us break our resolve."

A Legal Aid Agency spokesperson said: "Our deepest sympathies remain with the families of the victims of the horrific Birmingham pub bombings.

"We are only able to fund legal aid applications that satisfy the strict criteria set by law. Legal aid funding continues to remain available to the families for this inquest."

Legal sources said there were clear differences between the case of Worboys - an application for funding for a Crown Court criminal trial - and the civil case concerning funding for an inquest, which has very different eligibility criteria.

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