Julie Hambleton has appealed for Home Secretary to meet face to face within the next three weeks as she continues her campaign for justice over the Birmingham pub bombings.
Miss Hambleton, who set up the Justice for the 21 (J421) campaign with her brother Brian in 2011, to try and finally bring those responsible for the devastating bombs that took her sister's life, met virtually with Priti Patel last week.
But now Miss Hambleton, along with other families of the victims, wants another meeting as they continue their fight to get a public enquiry into the night of November 21, 1974, when 21 people were killed – including Julie and Brian's 18-year-old sister, Maxine – and 220 injured when two bombs went off in the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs. The crime remains unsolved.
Miss Hambleton, 58, who is also running for the position of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner in May, said: "The meeting with the Home Secretary Priti Patel did not go as we had planned or hoped due to the concerning issue of a question being asked in Parliament the day before, where our families were not given notice of this, especially when a junior minister put the cart before the horse, by stating that.
"In essence, we are pleased to have finally had the chance to speak with the Home Secretary but we are still no further to getting any indication of us being given a statutory inquiry, which is the only mechanism left that will provide us the opportunity to finally discover the truth as to what and 'who bombed Birmingham?'.
"I actually begged her to please give us what our loved ones deserve.
"The Home Secretary has said that she is determined to meet us face to face, where I implored her to do so 'much sooner than later, because we are all getting older'.
"As such, we urge the Home Secretary to meet us within the next three weeks, when lockdown regulations will hopefully be lighter, so she may give us an indication as to what decision she is going to make regarding us having what we want.
"If the Manchester bombing arena families, Grenfell families – god bless them all – can have public inquiries within two years of these harrowing atrocities occurring then why are we still having to wait some 46 years on?
"All we ask for is what any family would want, which is parity across the judiciary system, so that our loved ones will finally be able to rest in peace."
The J421 campaign has attracted global attention in recent years while also suffering several set backs as the families of the deceased continue their fight for justice.
J421 had challenged a coroner’s decision not to name the perpetrators behind the bombs, their associates and those who prepared and planted the bombs during any future inquests after a judicial review was brought on behalf of the bereaved families.
But the coroner appealed the decision, which was up held by the Court of Appeal in 2018.
Judges stated the complexity of the case, along with the time elapsed since the attacks, made it arduous to look into who was behind the bombings and why.
“We challenged the coroner’s original decision, to not name the suspects, and our supporters helped us raise over £80,000 because we were not even entitled to any legal aid – and we won the case to get a judicial review," she said.
“But when the Court of Appeal ruled against us, after the coroner appealed the decision, we decided we couldn’t try and go to the Supreme Court because it was asking too much of our supporters and the stress, strain and further traumatisation of having to raise such huge sums would have been highly detrimental to our health and wellbeing, especially as we would have needed another £150,000.
“West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has really supported us and he’s also raised it with Priti Patel.
“Unfortunately, two meetings were postponed before we had the virtual meeting, due to Covid, but hopefully she will agree to launching a public enquiry because, ultimately, that’s what we want. She’s said she’ll consider it anyway.
“We also want to thank our legal team, KRW Law, which continues to work pro bono for us, as well as our barristers Judi Kemish, Malachy McGowan, Kevin Morgan, Adam Straw, Tom Stoate and Sam Fowles, along with Ashley Underwood QC and Leslie Thomas QC, most of whom have also represented us pro bono."
Barry O’Donnell, associate solicitor at KRW, added: “Our clients went into this meeting with the Home Secretary expecting to explain their reasons for requesting her to establish a public inquiry into the pub bombings.
"That was not forthcoming and the decision to publish the ministerial response was insensitive and inept.
"Once again, as with so many relatives of victims of the conflict, politicians have played fast and loose with their hopes and expectations in a shameful way.
"We will now consider, with our clients, ways forward. We need a commitment from the Home Secretary for a meeting with the relatives in Birmingham before the Mayoral election in May at which she will indicate her position of a public inquiry. ”
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said the meeting was another step towards a public inquiry and securing justice for the 21 murdered and their families.
"I want to thank the Home Secretary for taking the time to discuss this grave injustice with the families, and listening to them as they discussed how raw the pain and grief still is more than 46 years on from the murders," he said.
“I remain firmly of the belief that the only way to achieve justice now is through an open, panel-led, public inquiry, and I will continue to make the case alongside the J421 campaign. The families, and the city of Birmingham, need closure.”
Priti Patel said her sympathies were with all those families who shared "incredibly powerful and moving accounts of this awful event".
“I recognise the desire of the victim’s families and the wider community to see those responsible brought to justice, and I want to thank the families for taking the time to meet with me to discuss the case," she said.