Relatives of Birmingham pub bomb victim granted legal aid

Birmingham pub bombing aftermathImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Bombs exploded in two Birmingham city centre pubs on 21 November 1974

One of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombing victims' families has had a legal aid request granted, days before inquest proceedings are due to begin.

The government last month rejected a call from families to pay their legal fees at a reopened inquest through a fund similar to that created for the Hillsborough inquests.

But Home Secretary Amber Rudd backed an application for conventional legal aid.

The government has confirmed one funding application has been granted.

The family that has had legal aid approved is represented by Liverpool-based Broudie Jackson Canter.

Belfast law firm KRW made an application on behalf of eight other families but this was refused because the Legal Aid Agency, which handles the funding applications, does not have contracts with law firms outside England and Wales.

Image caption,
Twenty-one people were killed in the Birmingham pub bombings

The Legal Aid Agency has suggested KRW comes to an arrangement in which Broudie Jackson Canter applies for funding on its behalf.

Legal aid applications on behalf of the 10 other families have not yet been received.

'Lack of respect'

Twenty-one people were killed and 222 injured when suspected IRA bombs exploded in two city centre pubs on 21 November 1974.

Birmingham Northfield Labour MP Richard Burden said he hoped Justice Minister Sir Oliver Heald would address "the months... the families had to wait" between the inquest being announced and hearing the legal aid would be granted.

He said "that just shows lack of respect" and thought an apology "for that extra delay... would be useful".

Image caption,
Two pubs close together in the city centre were destroyed within minutes of each other

Sir Oliver said: "The Legal Aid Agency decides legal aid applications entirely independently. It isn't for politicians to interfere in their independent decision-making.

"Two applications have been received by the Legal Aid Agency. So far one has been granted and a way has been suggested of finding the other application to be within the rules.

"These applications don't cover all the families that have been bereaved and so it may be that there will be further applications."

Families had asked Ms Rudd to establish a fund similar to that created for the families represented at the Hillsborough stadium disaster inquests but that request was turned down.

Sir Oliver said: "Whether it's funding through the legal aid fund or it's funding through the Hillsborough-type of approach isn't so much the issue as the fact that the families should be represented if the case requires it, and that's the system we're trying to create."