Coroner orders reopening of Birmingham pub bombings inquests

01 Jan 2018

Inquests and Inquiries, Public Law and Judicial Review

The senior coroner overseeing the investigation into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings has ruled that the inquests into the deaths of 21 people as a result of the bombings should be reopened. The coroner stated that new inquests were necessary due to the wealth of evidence yet to be heard concerning the circumstances of the bombings and, in particular, West Midlands Police’s handling of information in the run-up to the attacks.

Inquests into the deaths of the 21 people killed were opened by the coroner shortly after the bombings took place in 1974. The inquests were suspended while criminal investigations into the matter took place. Following the conviction of six individuals in relation to the bombings (known as the ‘Birmingham Six’, their convictions were overturned in 1991), the inquests were never resumed.

In 2015 relatives of persons killed in the bombings lodged an application for a fresh inquest in order to reopen the hearings. The decision today follows a number of oral hearings earlier this year, and previous directions by the senior coroner that the West Midlands Police must disclose any evidence it holds concerning advance warnings of the bombings. Giving judgment today, the senior coroner stated that she had concerns that the police may have missed two opportunities to take steps to prevent the bombings.

It is now anticipated that a full inquest will take place in due course.

Ashley Underwood QC of Cornerstone Barristers is acting for the applicant relatives of the victims.