THE BIRMINGHAM PUB BOMBINGS 1974
KRW LAW LLP represent ten of the families of victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974 in the resumed inquests into the deaths of their loved ones.
These inquests are due to commence on 25th February 2019. To date there have been a number of pre-inquest review hearings in Birmingham before the Coroner, Sir Peter Thornton QC, to determine the scope and structure of these inquests which will be heard before a jury.
As is well-known the issue of who ordered, planned, made, carried, planted and detonated the Birmingham bombs has been ruled out of the scope of these inquests as the Coroner and the Court of Appeal ruled that the issue of perpetrators is a matter for a criminal justice investigation.
This narrows the scope of these inquests. What also narrows their scope is that the issue of whether there was a state agent or informer within the PIRA cell that was responsible for the bombings has also been ruled out of the scope on the basis of lack of evidence.
To date those we represent have been reliant upon the integrity of the coronial process to ensure that disclosure from all the relevant government agencies has been made to the Coroner. The Coroner and his legal team insists that searches have been made ‘up hill and down dale’ and nothing has been found within either the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, the West Midlands Police and the PSNI. The Government Legal Department (GLD) has provided a sworn affidavit to this effect.
It is now clear that important files have either gone missing or have been destroyed – particularly from the Cabinet Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) – from the time. In addition, it appears that there was apparently no planning at either national or local to respond to the threat from the PIRA which had been waging a bombing campaign in Northern Ireland and England.
This means there was apparently no contingency planning at Cabinet level or at government department level; this means there was apparently no contingency planning at Divisional Constabulary level or between police forces including ACPO; this means there was no contingency planning with the ambulance and fire service; this means there was no contingency planning with the Security Services (MI5, MI6 and Military Intelligence).
Despite the real threat of a PIRA bomb, no state agency appears to have produced any guidelines, policies or protocols on how to prevent or respond to a bomb threat or explosion or discovery of a device.
This might account as to why police officers searched the empty Rotunda Building but did not evacuate The Mulberry Bush located at the bottom of the building on the first two floors.
These inquests are to be conducted in a manner consistent with the jurisprudence demanded by Article 2 of the ECHR when there has been a possible failure by the state to prevent death.
Article 2 requires the investigation to be effective and to enable the effective participation of the relatives of the victims. This is why we are pushing for a statement of truth from each of the state agencies our clients maintain either should have relevant material or a reason why such material has been destroyed or lost – the assurance of the GLD is not sufficient.
Senior officials from each agency – the West Midlands Police, the PSNI, the MOD, the Home Office (MI5) and the FCO (MI6) – need to be sworn to accountability on this issue.
These officials may challenge such a direction from the Coroner and it might lead to further litigation. That is not of concern to those we represent. Indeed, similar assurances have been made in similar circumstances in the past, particularly so when either sworn affidavits have later proved false or misleading or material is ‘discovered’ during or after the course of an investigation.
Christopher Stanley, a member of the KRW legal team, said:
“Whilst we understand the constraints of the coronial process and wish not to impugn in any way the good faith and integrity of the Coroner and his legal team, from our point of view we are incredulous, as are our clients, as to the absence of material held by central government departments and police forces in relation to the Birmingham Pub Bombings.
These bombings came in the middle of a PIRA bombing campaign. That JIC files should go missing is alarming.
As these are Article 2 inquests into complex multi-deaths then this investigation must command the confidence of the relatives. This is why, with only weeks away from the start of these inquests, we will continue to press the Coroner to use his powers to compel statements of truth that the disclosure exercise demanded by the relevant agencies has been scrupulously and thoroughly conducted.
We know from experience that affidavits from senior official can be misleading or untrue and that material can come to light quite unexpectedly at a later date – in this instance that will be too late.”