Guildford pub bombings: Coroner sets pre-inquest hearing date

Horse & Groom Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bombs went off in two pubs in Guildford

The question of who bombed Guildford could arise in a pre-inquest hearing into the town's IRA pub bombings in 1974, lawyers have said.

Surrey Coroner's office has confirmed a hearing will be held in June into the deaths of five people in the blasts.

In Birmingham, pub bombings coroner Sir Peter Thornton QC is appealing against a legal ruling over whether the alleged bombers can be named in an inquest.

Christopher Stanley, from KRW Law, said similar issues may arise in Guildford.

Sir Peter had decided the names of the alleged bombers would not be part of fresh inquests, but the High Court quashed the decision.

Mr Stanley said the hearings in Woking might coincide with the Court of Appeal hearing on naming the alleged Birmingham bombers.

"Similar issues may arise in the Guildford inquests given the flawed conviction of the Guildford Four and an apparent admission by an IRA active service unit sometime later," Mr Stanley said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Eleven people including Gerry Conlon were wrongly-convicted after the Guildford blasts

Surrey coroner Richard Travers will hold the two-day hearing in Woking on 13 and 14 June and is to hear submissions on whether the full inquest should be resumed.

The original proceedings never concluded in the 1970s.

In Birmingham, 21 people died and 182 people were injured when two bombs went off in city centre pubs in 1974. The Guildford attacks saw five killed and 65 injured.

After the attacks, the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four were wrongly convicted while the Maguire Seven were wrongly jailed on explosives charges.

All 17 were later released.

Image copyright Gov.uk
Image caption Sir John May's final report looked at confessions made by four members of the Balcombe Street gang

In 1976, the IRA's Balcombe Street unit claimed responsibility for the Guildford attacks but were not charged.

And last year, self-confessed IRA bomb maker Michael Hayes claimed he was part of the group responsible for the Birmingham blasts. No-one has been charged with those bombings since the Birmingham Six were freed in 1991.

KRW applied for a fresh hearing into the Guildford attacks after the BBC obtained papers on the case from a controversial inquiry into the miscarriage of justice by Sir John May.

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Image caption Five were killed at Guildford and 65 injured

Sir John's inquiry ran from 1989 to 1994 and the original Surrey Police inquiry was also reviewed by the Avon and Somerset force in 1987.

But Mr Stanley said: "Key questions have to date remained unanswered despite an external police inquiry and a nominal public inquiry led by Sir John May."

He said: "We understand that there is no ongoing police investigation into the bombings.

"A resumed inquest would be one mechanism for initiating an investigation into all the surrounding circumstances."

At the hearing next month, KRW Law will represent the family of one of those who died in the Guildford explosions and an ex-soldier who survived. Both clients have asked not to be named.

Of the Guildford Four - Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and the late Gerry Conlon and Carole Richardson - KRW are representing Mr Conlon's family and lawyers have been instructed for Mr Armstrong and the family of Ms Richardson.

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