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Coroner 'taking time to consider High Court judgement'.

TWENTY-ONE people died, and almost 200 were injured, when bombers devastated The Mulberry Bush, in the base of The Rotunda, and The Tavern in The Town in nearby New Street, on November 21, 1974 at the height of an IRA bombing campaign on the British mainland.

The Birmingham Six were wrongly convicted after a flawed police investigation. They served almost 17 year behind bars in one of Britain's most infamous miscarriages of justice before their sentences were quashed and they were released. That should have resulted in inquests, which were originally opened in 1974, being properly concluded, but they were never resumed.

In 2016, Justice4the21, backed by The Birmingham Mail, successfully campaigned for a new inquest to be opened. A total of 11 families will be represented at the new inquiry, with two others registered as interested parties.

Former Chief Coroner of England and Wales Peter Thornton - drafted in to head the inquest because of its likely complexity - caused outrage last year when he ruled the issue of who made and planted the bombs, and how they did it, out of the scope of the new inquest.

He said it was "not in the public interest of these investigations and inquests to pursue unachievable, or indeed unlawful objectives."

At the judicial review hearing, lawyers for the families applied for a wider scope. Barrister Adam Straw said: "There's been no full and independent investigation for who was responsible." Coroner Mr Thornton's barrister, Sir Peter Skelton QC, countered that inquests were not the correct arena to consider who carried out the bombings, and risked turning forthcoming hearings into a "proxy criminal trial".

The Coroner has 21 days to submit an appeal over the decision, which was announced yesterday at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre.

A spokesman for Mr Thornton said: "The Coroner is committed to ensuring that the inquests start as soon as possible but now wishes to take some time to consider carefully the judgment handed by the High Court and its impact on the future progress of the inquests.

"The Coroner is grateful for the considerable help and assistance he has had from all Interested persons in the inquests to date. He will continue to work closely with the families and all interested persons as he progresses with his investigation into the tragic events in Birmingham 43 years ago."

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Peter Thornton

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 27, 2018
Words:392
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