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Birmingham pub bombs inquest 'not forum for justice'

By Sian Harrison

Lawyers for the coroner in charge of inquests into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings have said the hearings will not resolve the "enduring injustice" for victims and their families.

Sir Peter Thornton QC is challenging a High Court ruling which ordered him to reconsider his decision to exclude an enquiry into the identities of those who "planted, planned, procured and authorised the bombs".

The bombings in two city centre pubs, widely believed to be the work of the IRA, killed 21 people and injured 182 - making it the deadliest peacetime attack in the UK at the time.

Outlining his submissions to the Court of Appeal, Peter Skelton QC said: "The 21 people who died in the bombings and their families have suffered an enduring injustice.

"So too have those who were injured and their families, and countless others who have been affected. The pain and grief they have borne has been exacerbated by the fact no one has ever been held accountable in law.

"But, for the reasons the coroner gave... these inquests cannot resolve the enduring injustice."

Mr Skelton, for the coroner, added that victims, their families and the public interest "cannot be served" by a promised resolution that "cannot be delivered".

Two High Court judges quashed a decision by Sir Peter to exclude the "perpetrator issue" from the new hearings following a judicial review brought on behalf of the bereaved families by Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was 18 when she was killed in the bombings.

Ten of the families were in court yesterday to hear the appeal before Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Lady Justice Hallett and Lord Justice McCombe.

They also argue it is necessary for the inquests to investigate the perpetrator issue because the police investigation into the bombings resulted in a "notorious miscarriage of justice".

Six Irishmen, who became known as the Birmingham Six, served 17 years behind bars in one of Britain's most infamous miscarriages of justice before their convictions were finally quashed.

The judges are expected to give their ruling at a later date.

Belfast Telegraph

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