A Coroner has confirmed an inquest into the deaths of the 21 people killed during the Birmingham pub bombings will be reopened. A further 182 people were injured during the blasts at the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern on the night of 21 November 1974.
In 1975, six men, known as the Birmingham Six, were wrongly convicted of for the attacks, which were then the worst terrorist attacks to take place in the UK. The Birmingham Six were freed in 1991 after having their convictions quashed in what is considered one of the worst miscarriages of justice the UK has ever seen.
No one has been convicted in connection with the bombings since, but it is believed the IRA were responsible for the attacks.
Louise Hunt, the senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, has now ruled that the inquest into the 21 people killed in the attacks will re-open after hearing "significant" new information. It is believed Hunt heard evidence authorities were aware that Birmingham was due to be a target for a terrorist attack but police "filed away" the information.
Hunt said there is evidence police were aware of a comment in a pub made by men linked to IRA that "Birmingham would be hit next week" 11 days before the attack, but there was "no indication that the police took any active steps in response to it".
Hunt said: "I have serious concerns that advanced notice of the bombs may have been available to the police and that they failed to take the necessary steps to protect life.
"It is only in respect of that issue that I consider there is sufficient reason to resume an inquest to investigate the circumstances of these deaths. There is a wealth of evidence that still has not been heard – I have decided the inquest should resume."
Prior to the announcement, Justice4the21 campaign group leader Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister was one of those killed in the attacks, said: "There are 20 families whose lives were changed forever on that night and they have never been told the truth about what happened. There are many more - the casualties and those who came to their aid on the night - whose lives were changed forever, too.
"The inquests were opened, quite properly, within a week of it happening and then adjourned. They were never resumed after the trial of the Birmingham Six - a trial which later turned out to be a travesty and which led to their wrongful conviction.
"We believe it is only right for the inquest to be re-opened, even after the passing of the years, because it is an opportunity for the truth to be told and a chance for all those left bereaved to find out more about what happened to their loved ones."
West Midlands Police Chief Constable Dave Thompson said he welcomed the decision. He added: "The Birmingham Pub Bombings of 1974 are one of the most serious terrorist attacks in the UK. West Midlands Police not only failed to catch those responsible but caused a miscarriage of justice. I have said and reiterate again, it is the most serious failing in this force's history. It is almost 42 years since these events. I understand families of those who lost their lives are frustrated, disappointed and angry.
"Since 2012 and directly as a result of the campaign by families of those who died we have carefully reassessed the opportunities to bring the people responsible to justice. Despite an intense scrutiny we have not been able to see, at this time, a prospect of doing this. That has been an authentic and painstaking search for the truth."
He added: "We have not nor will not close this investigation. West Midlands Police will support this enquiry as we have done through the recent hearings by the Coroner which determined whether the inquest should re-open. I hope the new inquest provides answers to families."