CPS to bring no charges after reinvestigation into Birmingham pub bombings

CPS to bring no charges after reinvestigation into Birmingham pub bombings

THE families of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings have been told that criminal charges will not be brought following a reinvestigation into the case by the West Midlands Police.

The Birmingham pub bombings occurred on November 21, 1974, when bombs exploded in two public houses in central Birmingham — the Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush. The explosions killed 21 people and injured at least 170 others.

Six Irishmen — who became known as the Birmingham Six — were wrongly convicted of the bombing. Hugh Callaghan, Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, John Walker, Richard McIlkenny and Billy Power served 16 years in prison before their convictions were overturned.

The families of those killed and injured were hoping that the new police investigation could see prosecutions being brought forward after a book of evidence had been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service. The book, containing a single file, focused on one individual, according to The Guardian newspaper.

But the CPS announced this week that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a case any suspect. They said that it was impossible to positively identify who planted the bomb.

No one has ever been convicted for the attacks and no one has ever admitted responsibility. However Chris Mullin, Labour MP for Sunderland South from 1987 until 2010 — and a tireless campaigner for the release of the six innocent Irishmen — has previously said that he has interviewed up to a seventeen IRA operatives, but on the understanding that their names would not be revealed until after their deaths.

Mr Mullin has subsequently named those in the IRA gang responsible who have died, but not the teenager who had planted the bombs and who is still alive.

However, he added that the names of those who planted the bombs are now public knowledge, and that the police would be aware of the names, as well as the British government.

This was confirmed in an inquest in 2019 when a witness, known as ‘Witness O’ named three suspects in court.

A member of an IRA active service unit in Birmingham, he told the inquest he was in Winson Green prison at the time of the bombings. But he revealed he had “been given permission” to name the four men by the then current head of the IRA in Dublin.

Speaking in court via a video he named the officer commanding the Birmingham IRA at the time of the incident as the ringleader responsible for selecting the targets.

In the run-up to the inquests in 2019 the coroner had ruled out the identification of the bombers.

But ‘Witness O’ agreed to name the four men after being told that relatives had been in "pain and suffering for the last 44 years". He added that in so doing, he was possibly putting his own life at risk from republican dissident groups, he said.

There were gasps and tears from the victims’ relatives when ‘Witness O’ spoke their names in court. Two of the men named were already dead by that time.

The 2019 inquests also heard that the bombings were “an operation that had gone badly wrong”.

In November 2022, West Midlands Police submitted a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about an unnamed individual's suspected role in the bombings.

But this week the families were informed of the decision. According to The Guardian newspaper a CPS letter said: “There is evidence that a confession was made to Mr Mullin but we do not have sufficient evidence to enable the prosecution to positively identify who made the confession to him.”

The CPS said it would continue to support police should there be further lines of inquiry.

Nick Price, head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: "The Birmingham pub bombings were a terrorist atrocity which cut short the lives of 21 people and injured many more who were simply seeking to enjoy their evening.

"The attack has brought such unimaginable grief and our thoughts remain with the family, friends and every one of the victims."

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has now demanded a public inquiry into the Birmingham pub bombings.