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Suspects in 1974 Birmingham pub bombings will NOT be named

The suspects believed to have carried out the Birmingham IRA bombings in 1974 will not be named at the inquests into the deaths of 21 people they killed.

Families of the victims have argued the hearings would be ‘utterly redundant’ without discussing who carried out the atrocity.

But today Sir Peter Thornton QC, the coroner in charge, won a Court of Appeal challenge to stop naming them.

He successfully argues that it was not his job to investigate who was responsible for two bombs, which killed 21 and injured 182 people 44 years ago.

21 people died in two IRA bombings in 1974 but upcoming inquests will now not name those believed to be responsible, a court has ruled

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett announced on Wednesday that the coroner had made ‘no error of law’.

He added: ‘We allow the appeal and restore the original decision.’ 

Sir Peter challenged a High Court ruling made earlier this year which ordered him to reconsider his decision to exclude an inquiry into the identities of those who ‘planted, planned, procured and authorised the bombs’.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Lady Justice Hallett and Lord Justice McCombe will gave their decision on the coroner’s appeal on Wednesday.

The bombings in two city centre pubs, widely believed to be the work of the IRA, killed 21 people and injured 182, making it the deadliest peacetime attack in the UK at the time.

The coroner ruled in July last year that investigations into the identity of those responsible for the atrocities should not form part of his inquiry.

Six men, known as the Birmingham Six, were imprisoned for the murders and served 17 years behind bars in one of Britain’s most infamous miscarriages of justice before their convictions were quashed.

Five West Midlands Police officers were charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with the original criminal investigation, but a judge ruled in 1993 that a fair trial would be impossible.

During the appeal proceedings before the three judges in July, lawyers for the coroner said the hearings will not resolve the ”enduring injustice’ for victims and their families.

Peter Skelton QC, representing the coroner, said the victims , their families and the public interest ‘cannot be served’ by a promised resolution that ‘cannot be delivered’.

Two High Court judges, sitting in Birmingham in January, quashed the decision by Sir Peter to exclude the ‘perpetrator issue’ from the new hearings.

Their ruling followed a judicial review brought on behalf of the bereaved families by Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was 18 when she was killed in the bombings.

Mrs Hambleton, spokeswoman for the victims’ campaign group Justice4the21, has said it would be ‘utterly redundant to have the inquests unless the perpetrators, their associates and those who prepared and planted the bombs are included’.

Hugh Southey QC, representing the families, told the appeal judges: ‘There is the utmost public interest in the proper investigation of who was responsible for the Birmingham bombings.

‘The families of the deceased said to the appellant (Sir Peter) that the investigation of this issue was so important to them that if it did not form part of the scope of the inquest ‘we may as well not have an inquest at all’.’