Public inquiry into Birmingham Pub Bombings which killed 21 to be considered by Home Secretary Priti Patel

PA/Birmingham Inquests Credit: Public inquiry into Birmingham Pub Bombings to be considered by Home Secretary

The Home Secretary has agreed to look into calls for a public inquiry into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings

In April 2019 an inquest found that 21 people were "unlawfully killed" following explosions in two pubs in the city centre - The Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush.

The aftermath of the city centre explosions Credit: ITV News Central

One inquest witness described the explosions on the night of November 21 as "pure carnage".

220 people were also injured in what was then the deadliest post-Second World War attack on the British mainland, until the 7/7 London terrorist attacks in 2005.

Now following years of campaigning by relatives of the dead, and local leaders in the West Midlands, for answers about what happened, the Home Secretary Priti Patel says she will consider their views and official evidence - before deciding whether to go ahead. 

The victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings Credit: PA/Birmingham Inquests

What is a public inquiry?

It's an investigation set up by the government into matters of public importance.

They try to establish the truth about what happened in a particular scenario by examining evidence, and give recommendations to try to avoid future mistakes.

In the past, public inquiries have been held into health scandals, decisions to go to war and major disasters.

Conservative mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has been involved in the campaign for an inquiry, led by the group Justice for the 21.

"Whilst this is not a firm commitment, it is a step towards securing a public inquiry and ultimately justice for the 21 murdered that night and their families. 

I am firmly of the belief that the only way to achieve justice now is through an open, panel-led, public inquiry, and I will continue to make the case alongside the Justice for the 21 campaign."

In a statement, Ms Patel said,

"My sympathy remains with all those affected by these awful events 46 years ago. And I recognise the desire of the victims' families and the wider community to see those responsible brought to justice."

She also said she wanted to meet the bereaved families and visit the West Midlands.

Julie Hambleton Credit: BPM Media

Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister Maxine in the pub bombings, said:

"We welcome this opportunity to discuss the need for a statutory inquiry into the Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974 with the Home Secretary...

We believe that a public inquiry is the only mechanism of investigation to establish truth, justice and accountability for those murdered in the pub bombings."

Mr Street first called for a public inquiry into the bombings on the 45th anniversary last November. 

Below is a timeline of the key events surrounding the Birmingham bombings:

  • November 1974: A series of bombs in two pubs in Birmingham - the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town - kill 21 people and injure 182 others - the dead were all aged between 17 and 51

  • August 1975: Six men, Patrick (Paddy) Joseph Hill, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny, Gerard Hunter, William Power and John Walker, are convicted of 21 counts of murder

  • March 1976: The Birmingham Six made their first appeal against their convictions - it was dismissed

  • 1985 - a series of programmes by the documentary strand 'World In Action' cast doubt on the case against the Birmingham Six

  • January 1987: Home Office referred the convictions of the Birmingham Six to the Court of Appeal

  • January 1988: the appeal was dismissed and the convictions were ruled to be 'safe and satisfactory'

  • August 1990: The Home Secretary again referred the convictions of the Birmingham Six to the Court of Appeal as a result of fresh evidence

  • March 1991: The Birmingham Six were freed after serving 16 years in prison

  • 2001: The Birmingham Six were awarded compensation for their wrongful imprisonment ranging from £840,000 to £1.2 million

  • November 2011: Maxine and Brian Hambleton, who lost their 18-year-old sister Maxine, set up Justice4the21

  • April 2014: Then-Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Chris Sims, refused to reopen formal inquiries into the attacks as there was "no new evidence"

  • December 2014: In a memoir, Kieran Conway, a former senior officer of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), formally admitted the group's involvement in the Birmingham pub bombings

  • October 2015: a senior coroner considers whether to reopen the inquest into those killed in the bombings

  • June 2016: Senior Coroner Louise Hunt rules that the inquests should be resumed, as there is a "wealth of evidence". She highlights two occasions when police were warned of imminent IRA attacks in the city

  • November 2016: Fresh inquests into the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings get underway amid a dispute of legal funding between the families of the victims and the Government

  • July 2017: Coroner decides that the new inquests into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings will not identify any potential suspects

  • August 2017: Justice 4the21 ask the public for money to help fight their legal case and overturn the coroner's ruling

  • January 2018: High Court rules that the suspects will be named. The coroner appeals.

  • July 2018: Appeal Court judges asked to reverse a ruling by the High Court that those suspected of carrying out the Birmingham Pub Bombings can be named.

  • September 2018: The High Court rules the coroner doesn't have to name the suspects.

  • October 2018: A documentary airs on ITV which names two prime suspects

  • November 2018: A memorial to the 21 people who died in the Birmingham pub bombings was unveiled outside Birmingham New Street.

  • February 2019: The inquest into the deaths of the 21 people who died begins at Birmingham Coroners court on the 25th of February.

  • April 2019: The inquest concluded on the 5th of April.

  • October 2020: After a number of calls for a public inquiry, the Home Secretary agrees to look into the case for one.