Court of Appeal restores the Corner’s ruling as to the ‘perpetrator issue’ in Birmingham bombings inquest


Re: Coroner for the Birmingham Inquests (1974) v Hambleton & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 2081

In this case the Senior Coroner for Birmingham acceded to an application to reopen the inquests into the deaths of those murdered on 21 Nov 1974 in Birmingham when bombs exploded in two crowded public houses. The application was made on behalf of family members of some of those of died. The issue in this appeal is whether the former Chief Coroner, Sir Peter Thornton QC’s decision not to explore what has been dubbed the “Perpetrator Issue” that is to call evidence directed to identifying those who planned, planted, procured and authorised the bombs used on 21 Nov 1974, was lawful.

On 26 Jan 2018 the Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court (Simon LJ and Carr J) quashed the decision of the Coroner, concluding that the Coroner had not posed the right question in reaching his decision.

The Court of Appeal allowed the Coroner’s appeal, thereby restoring his ruling of 3 Jul 2017. The respondents’ application for permission to bring a cross-appeal was refused.

Hugh Southey QC was involved this case.