BIRMINGHAM PUB BOMBING FAMILIES AND SUPPORTERS TO CHALLENGE WEST MIDLANDS POLICE ISSUING OF FIXED PENALTY NOTICES FOLLOWING ANNIVERSARY CONVOY OF REMEMBRANCE.
KRW LAW LLP (KRW) is instructed by ten of the families of those killed in The Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974 (BPB74). The 21 November 2020 saw another anniversary of the pub bombings and out of respect and in solidarity for those who have been tragically bereaved by Covid-19, the service and acts of remembering were cancelled.
However, on the cancellation of these acts of remembering, supporters of the Justice for the 21 (J421) campaign group contacted Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister Maxine in the bombings, to offer support and to organise a carefully planned Convoy of Remembrance on the 21 November 2020 as a substitute to the annual important act of remembering in accordance with Covid-19 regulations.
J421 organisers worked extensively with a specialist team from the West Midlands Police (WMP) to ensure traffic disruption was at a minimum and most importantly to ensure compliance with the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. A route for the Convoy of Remembrance was agreed as well as other operational matters and marshals from J4the21 were on hand to assist the convoy.
Once the convoy reached the WMP HQ, Lloyd House, a number of people from the convoy and others who had not been part of the convoy had started to gather. At this point Julie Hambleton went to the small gathering who were wearing masks and distancing appropriately, to thank them for coming and for taking time out of their busy lives to support the act of remembering. This concluded the act of remembrance. Julie and another organiser encouraged the small gathering to disperse, which they did within 13 minutes of being gathered.
Subsequently, WMP issued six penalty notices on the basis that the gathering outside Lloyd House breached the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. Four of those issued with Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) refused to pay and this led to the prosecution.
KRW wrote to the Chief Constable Sir Dave Thompson requesting that he review the processes and procedures which informed the decision to issue these FPNs and to annul them on the basis that the actions of those we represent were in accordance with the regulations and that the Convoy of Remembrance was a well-planned event which attracted a large number of disciplined participants as in previous years.
After a two-day trial in Birmingham Magistrates Court, District Judge Khalid Jamil Qureshi, acquitted the four defendant’s and found them not guilty. He directed the CPS to request that WMP withdraw the two FPNs and refund the money to the two people who paid the fines.
The District Judge found that the organisers could not have foreseen or controlled the few people who left their vehicles on arrival at Lloyd House. There had been no intention to divert from what had been agreed with the WMP or breach any assurances that had been given. The organisers could not have foreseen or controlled those who attended Lloyd House who were not part of the convoy. The organisers did all that was reasonable to encourage dispersal of the small gathering as soon as possible. He noted that the regulations had been criticised as being opaque and unclear and required subjective interpretation but because they were regulations, they were secondary legislation and that the provisions of the Human Rights 1998 had primacy.
The defendants were represented by Phillip Rule, Counsel, of No 5 Chambers.
Christopher Stanley, KRW LAW LLP, said following the trial:
“In our view this was an unnecessary prosecution taken by the WMP and endorsed by the CPS. We and those we represent of course understand the importance of the unique circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for periodic lockdown. However, our clients acted within the law and in the letter and spirit of the regulations, even if opaque and subject to subjective interpretation. The police made decisions based on reputational damage and resources. Their ‘stand-off’ approach meant that control of the gathering at Lloyd House fell to our clients. The District Judge concluded that our clients had a reasonable excuse for their actions. A decision to issue Fixed Penalty Notices after a later review was therefore wrong. Let us hope that WMP can learn from their embarrassing mistake in this instance and allow the people of Birmingham to safely commemorate those lost in the pub bombings of 1974.”