The Home Secretary has refused to offer legal aid to relatives of the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings. Families of nine of the 21 victims who died in the 1974 attack met Amber Rudd earlier in the month and said they were left “frustrated and disappointed’ after their meeting ahead f the inquests due to start next month.
Now it has been reported that Rudd, in a personal phone call, confirmed that she would not offer funding along the lines provided to the families of the Hillsborough disaster. Generally speaking, legal aid is not available at an inquest because because, in the words of the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), the process ‘is a relatively informal inquisitorial process, rather than an adversarial one’.
In Warrington, the Hillsborough families did have proper legally aided representation. That came through non-means tested funding from the home office and other government departments, as opposed to the Legal Aid Agency. As Ruth Bundey, speaking on behalf of the Hillsborough lawyers, noted at this year’s LALYs: ‘Thankfully, we were spared that excruciating and intrusive probing of financial circumstances common to all other inquest work.’
Amber Rudd has pledged her support for an application to the LAA. ‘Time is really imperative in order for our legal team to have sufficient preparation, and we are rapidly approaching a pre-inquest review date which has been ordered by the Coroner. Every day is vital,’ said Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister Maxine in the Birmingham bombings (see pic). ‘The police have £1 million funding secured from taxpayers’ money and have already had several weeks more than us in order to start their preparations.’
In an open letter, Julie Hambleton said that this was ‘the last opportunity’ they would have to have an independent investigation into the murder of our loved ones’.
‘We have had no support in this for over 40 years – to date all investment to get us to this point has been by ourselves alone – in this room with you (the Home Secretary), in getting a decision from the Senior Coroner, in meeting your predecessor – has been under our own volition and with the support of our legal team,’ wrote Hambleton. ‘A Senior Coroner has decided there is new evidence, sufficient cause and reason, and powers to undertake a resumption of the investigation. We are aware of what this investigation can provide to us and its limitations.
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