Legal aid funding still unresolved for pub bombings families

Nine families who lost their loved ones in the Birmingham pub bombings will attend a hearing today, still unsure whether they will get legal aid funding.

Last month, it was announced that there would be a change in the law which would mean their non-UK lawyers, could apply for legal aid.

However, KRW Law who are currently working for some of the families of the 21 free of charge, are still in the process of applying for it.

Outside of the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham after a bomb exploded. Credit: PA Images
  • Background

Twenty-one people died and 182 were injured after bombs exploded in two Birmingham pubs in November 1947.

No-one has ever been brought to justice for the murders and the attack remains unresolved.

Six men were wrongly convicted in 1974 for the explosions that ripped through the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs and freed in 1991.

Inquests into the deaths of the 21 people killed are due to resume later this year.

However, the issue over how the families' legal teams will be paid continues.

Credit: ITV News Central
  • Change in the law

The law firm representing members of the Justice4the21 campaign group has been working free of charge for more than two years, but say that is no longer sustainable.

Last month, the government removed legal barriers which stopped Northern Ireland-based solicitors KRW Law from applying for funding.

However, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson, said the application they received was "incomplete" and it cannot be considered in its current form.

They say they are in contact with the Belfast-based law firm and expect to receive completed applications shortly.

KRW say they are still completing the personal financial details of the applicants, but that the Legal Aid agency has already received a 'substantial application' from them for Exceptional Case Funding.

However, they have described the process as an 'unnecessary and an invasion of privacy', given that they are expecting financial eligibility limits to be waived given the 'exceptional' nature of the families' application for legal aid.

They add that they are still 'working hard' to complete the application out of 'administrative compliance'.

The 21 people who lost their lives in the Birmingham pub bombings. Credit: ITV News Central
  • What is this hearing about?

The families of the 21 are expecting the hearing, which is taking place in Birmingham today, to be mostly housekeeping.

KRW Law will represent the nine families, who are part of the campaign group, during the hearing at the Civil Justice Centre in the city centre.

They're expecting an update from the coroner on funding, as well as updates on matters like what information will be released to the inquests.

Justice for the 21 group successfully campaigned for inquests to be resumed. Credit: ITV News.
  • Going forward

Birmingham and Solihull Coroner Louise Hunt made the decision last summer to hold new inquests into the deaths.

In May, there will be another hearing in which there will be a full discussion about what approach the inquests should take.

In June, the coroner will examine a number of issues, including the actions of West Midlands Police in the run-up to and the aftermath of the bombings.

Read more: Birmingham pub bombings victims to be given Posthumous award