Leslie Thomas QC and Tom Stoate are representing families of victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974 in the resumed inquests into the deaths of their loved ones. They are instructed by KRW Law LLP along with Kevin Morgan and Malachy McGowan of the Bar of Northern Ireland.
On 25 February, after almost five years of campaigning, fundraising, legal applications and argument, the inquest into the deaths of the 21 victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings has recommenced. 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 are now being heard before a jury.
This week marks the start of a minimum five-week hearing at which material evidence is being adduced and witness evidence is being heard by a jury in Birmingham, a few minutes’ walk from where the two bombs exploded.
The IRA attack on two city centre pubs on 21 November took place at the same time as a funeral procession for IRA bomber, James McDade, who died while planting a bomb at the Coventry telephone exchange a week beforehand. On the night of the bombings there were only 15 police officers in Birmingham city centre. A report on the bombings by a chief superintendent said the first police officers to be pulled back from the McDade funeral procession only arrived at the scene 9.10pm, 59 minutes after the warning call had been made. In an official police report, a force superintendent said the lower number of police “in no way affected the organisation and efficiency of the police at the scenes.”
Leslie Thomas QC, representing the families, said: “The threat was high. The threat was serious. The threats were obvious.” He said that the night of the pub bombings was both a late shopping night and payday.
The inquest into the Birmingham Pub Bombing deaths was initially opened in November 1974, but was adjourned to allow for criminal investigation. In 1975, six men who became known as the ‘Birmingham Six’, were convicted for the bombings, but then acquitted 16 years later. Fresh inquests were ordered in 2016, but were delayed due to disputes about whether the hearings should examine who the perpetrators might have been.
The inquest is expected to last up to six weeks.