Home Secretary Amber Rudd refuses legal aid for Birmingham bombing victims' families for reopened inquest into their deaths
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Home Secretary Amber Rudd refuses legal aid for Birmingham bombing victims' families for reopened inquest into their deaths

THE families of the victims of the IRA bombings in Birmingham have been denied Government funding to cover their expenses related to an impending inquest into the tragedy.

On the night of November 21, 1974, devastating blasts ripped through city centre pubs the Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush, claiming the lives of 21 people, with over 180 injured.

In June, Birmingham and Solihull Coroner Louise Hunt ruled that the inquest into the deaths should be reopened.

Last month the relatives of the victims, campaigning as the group Justice4the21 - led by Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died in the bombings, met with the Home Secretary to discuss an application to fund their legal team during the costly inquest process.

The group requested funding along the lines provided to the families of the Hillsborough disaster, but this week were told that they will not receive such financial assistance from the British Government.

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A statement from the Belfast-based legal firm KRW LAW LLP, who have represented the families for free for the past two years, under a pro bono arrangement, explained: “In a telephone call to Julie Hambleton, the sister of Maxine Hambleton, and in a letter to her and KRW LAW LLP, the Home Secretary expressed both her sympathy and support for the relatives of the victims.

"But she has decided not to offer funding along the lines provided to the families of the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster 1989.”

They added: “This is disappointing as the families of the Birmingham pub bombings victims only wanted parity with the Hillsborough families and this decision appears to be a continuing injustice.”

Christopher Stanley, a litigation consultant with the firm, told The Irish Post: “Our counsel have acted pro bono for two years on this.

"We are a Northern Irish firm assisting a Birmingham tragedy – which was never included in the Good Friday Agreement or any other peace settlement.

"That position is no longer sustainable, and we now need funds to carry on this basic human rights case in order to see justice being done.”

He added: “We represent victims across the community — we’re a human rights firm, and we think this is a just cause. A massive injustice has been done.”

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An application for funding has since been made with the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), a petition which is supported by Ms Rudd.

However, Mr Stanley claims the Home Secretary’s influence there is limited.

“The LAA is an independent statutory agency and politicians cannot be seen to be interfering with its decision making processes,” he told The Irish Post.

If the LAA approve the application, it's understood that the families will receive similar support to that received by the relatives of those who died in the 7/7 bombings in London.

The reopened Birmingham bombings inquest is due to take place in 2017, with preliminary hearings being held in November of this year.