THERE is no gagging order on police files from the investigation into the Birmingham pub bombings of 1974, the home secretary has revealed.
In a letter to justice campaigner Julie Hambleton, Theresa May has confirmed that despite wide reporting that a 75-year Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate had been placed on case files regarding the IRA bombing, it does not in fact exist.
The PII was thought to have been put in place in the 1990s, following the release of the Birmingham Six – the Irishmen wrongfully convicted and jailed for the attacks, forbidding the disclosure of police records to the public.
“The Crown Prosecution Service has now completed a detailed review of its records to ascertain the veracity of allegations that the [then] Director of Public Prosecutions Barbara Mills placed a 75-year PII certificate on files relating to the bombings,” Ms May's letter confirms.
“The CPS has confirmed that no evidence has been found to indicate that any such application was ever made or granted,” she adds.
For Ms Hambleton, who set up the Justice4the21 organisation to campaign for the 21 people – including her sister Maxine Hambleton - who lost their lives in the IRA blasts at the Mulberry Bush and The Tavern in the Town pubs in Birmingham on November 21, 1974, the news is bittersweet.
For years the campaigner has been calling for police to reopen the Birmingham bombings case to bring those responsible to justice.
“The home secretary’s response is no surprise. Frankly, it’s pretty much what we expected,” she said this week.
“The gagging order has been widely reported over many years, both in print, online and on TV.
“Now, apparently, the order doesn’t exist. But even if the authorities accepted the existence of a gagging order, they would still never make the papers public, because they would always argue they may be needed in a future court case.”
She added: “That court case is never likely to happen because, although the police are at pains to stress the case is open, they are not actively pursuing it.”
Ms Hambleton, who met with Theresa May earlier this year to voice her concerns about the case, claims she will continue to campaign for justice, to find “the truth behind that awful night, either with help from the documentation and case papers if they are available for inspection - or without”.
Earlier this month West Midlands Police confirmed to The Irish Post that they were “investigating their options” regarding questioning former IRA man Kieran Conway, whose recently published book Southside Provisional suggests he knows who was responsible for the IRA attack in Birmingham in 1974.
“That could take between nine and 12 months,” a WMP spokesperson added, “so it’s not a short-term thing but it’s not a closed case either.”