Thursday 29 September 2016

Families of Birmingham pub bomb victims 'frustrated' at wait for legal aid

Published 05/09/2016 | 22:35

Julie Hambleton, sister of Birmingham pub bombings victim Maxine Hambleton
Julie Hambleton, sister of Birmingham pub bombings victim Maxine Hambleton

Families of some of the Birmingham pub bombings victims said they feel frustrated and disappointed after a meeting with Home Secretary Amber Rudd to secure legal funding did not produce "the expected results".

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Families of nine of the 21 victims met with the Home Secretary on Monday following senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Louise Hunt's landmark decision in June that fresh inquests should take place into the deadly blasts.

Legal representatives have so far been working pro bono, but the families say funding is urgently needed for their upcoming legal bid for answers.

Julie Hambleton (53) of the Justice4the21 campaign, lost her 18-year-old sister Maxine in the bombings at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern In The Town pubs on November 21 1974.

Freedom: The Birmingham Six, after their sentences were quashed by the Court of Appeal in March, 1991
Freedom: The Birmingham Six, after their sentences were quashed by the Court of Appeal in March, 1991

She said of the meeting with Ms Rudd: "Obviously we are frustrated and disappointed.

"The meeting did not produce the expected results, but she listened to us and she listened to the reasons why we want funding and why we need to be legally represented at those forthcoming inquests.

"A line of communication has now been opened where she has informed us that she will make a decision by no later than the end of this month."

Mrs Hambleton agreed this was promising but added: "Our legal team are still waiting in the wings in limbo while they need to be sifting through all the documentation."

A pre-inquest review into the bombings is due to be held in October but a full inquest is not expected to get under way until next year.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "This afternoon the Home Secretary met relatives of victims of the tragic 1974 Birmingham pub bombing.

"The meeting was private and was to enable the Home Secretary to hear from the families directly. A decision about funding legal costs will be announced in due course."

A representative of KRW Law, which is representing the families, said it would continue for as long as was sustainable.

Paul Bodman and Paul Rowlands' fathers, Stanley and John, were both killed in the double IRA blasts.

Mr Bodman (63) from Birmingham said: "I feel quite devastated. We didn't get anything like what we wanted, did we?

"I feel like we've gone two steps forward and three back today, that's how I feel personally. It's probably not like that - she hasn't said no, she hasn't said yes - it's a bit disappointing for me."

Mr Rowlands, a rigging manager living in Stourbridge, the West Midlands, said he felt optimistic that the channels of communication were open but added: "We need answers sooner rather than later."

"We won't give up, we go forward, but the clock is still ticking," the 53-year-old said.

The bombings - the worst terrorist attack on the British mainland until the London 7/7 bombings - left 21 dead and 182 injured.

Those responsible have never faced justice and the only men to be tried for the crime - the Birmingham Six - had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal in 1991, after a botched investigation by West Midlands Police.

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