THE GUILDFORD PUB BOMBINGS 1974: FAMILY REQUESTS ADJOURNMENT IN ABSENCE OF LEGAL AID
KRW LAW LLP (KRW) acts on behalf of the family of Ann Hamilton, a young soldier killed with two colleagues and a civilian in The Guildford Pub Bombings 1974.
KRW has acted pro bono since 2018. In 2019 the Senior Coroner for Surrey ruled that the original inquest into the bombings should resume. The inquest had been suspended following the conviction of The Guildford Four who were subsequently released following a controversial miscarriage of justice investigation and appeal.
Since 2019 there have been a series of hearings to determine the process of disclosure and the scope of the inquest.
The substantive inquest is scheduled to commence in March 2022.
The Surrey Police, the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence are represented by barristers, including senior counsel.
The Senior Coroner is supported by both senior and junior counsel.
To date KRW has instructed a senior counsel who has acted pro bono. Legal aid for independent legal representation on behalf of the family of Ann Hamilton has been rejected by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).
This inquest will be complex and rely upon substantial disclosure of material and witness evidence.
It is not sustainable for KRW and counsel to continue to attempt to represent the family of Ann Hamilton in the absence of public funding. To do so would be a possible breach of professional of our duties owed to our clients.
Therefore, KRW has taken the difficult decision to request an adjournment of the inquest until funding for independent legal representation is provided.
In May 2021 the Justice Committee of the Houses of Parliament published its reports on the Coroners Service. The Committee recommended:
“102. Bereaved people should not be put through the difficult and time-consuming process of meeting the exceptional cases requirements and the means test for legal aid where public authorities are legally represented at public expense at the inquest into the death of their loved one. The Ministry of Justice should by 1 October 2021, for all inquests where public authorities are legally represented, make sure that non-means tested legal aid or other public funding for legal representation is also available for the people that have been bereaved.”
Our request for an adjournment is until 1 October 2021 when the MOJ will make its decision. In the interim we have written to the Senior Coroner to ask him to support, again, an application for public funding for the family of Ann Hamilton.
We have also written to the MOJ, the Home Office and the LAA to request that public funding is made available in the interests of the administration of justice, the public interest, to ensure Equality of Arms and parity and to enable the family of Ann Hamilton to be able to effectively participate into the inquest into her death.
Christopher Stanley of KRW said:
“The view of the cross-party Justice Committee is clear: there must be parity in the public funding of complex inquests including The Guildford Pub Bombings 1974. Once again, as we saw in The Birmingham Pub Bombing 1974 Inquest, families are deprived Equality of Arms.
Independent legal representation assists the family and the coroner. In this instance, as in Birmingham, families of Conflict-related killings are treated differently to families in Northern Ireland.
In addition, last year we requested the intervention of the Veterans Minister who declined to intervene. Three of the victims of this bombing were British Army soldiers. In Northern Ireland, veterans are provided with legal representation at public expense to assist in their participation in Conflict-related inquests – why cannot the same support be provided to families of British soldiers killed during the Conflict?
Without the presence of the family of Ann Hamilton this inquest will be an incomplete investigation, despite the best intentions of the Senior Coroner.”