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Birmingham inquest decision a step forward for families

The decision to re-open inquests into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings is another sign that the tide may be slowly turning in favour of families desperate for answers about the deaths of loved ones in historical Troubles-related cases.

West Midlands Police force, which was responsible for the appalling miscarriage of justice that saw six innocent men serve 16 years for a mass murder they did not commit, had opposed fresh inquests being held, telling the coroner there was `no evidential basis' to do so.

However, coroner Louise Hunt said there was evidence the police had missed two potential warnings of the bomb attacks and she had serious concerns `that they failed to take the necessary steps to protect life.'

It was the right decision but once again the bereaved have had to fight long and hard to get at the truth about the deaths of family members.

In fact, this inquest is actually resuming a hearing that was opened and adjourned days after bombs ripped through two pubs 42 years ago, causing carnage on a massive scale.

As was standard practice, the inquests were postponed pending the outcome of criminal proceedings. As we know, the Birmingham Six were wrongly convicted and the real killers were not brought to justice, but the inquests did not resume.

It seems incredible that the West Midlands Police would argue against allowing all available evidence being finally aired and the families given the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers.

But this is a situation all too familiar to victims in Northern Ireland who have been battling for controversial cases to be examined in court.

This week not only saw the Birmingham families take a step forward in their quest for truth, but the relatives of those killed at Kingsmill also heard of a possible forensic breakthrough in their case.

A drive by the Lord Chief Justice to progress a number of legacy inquests also provides a glimmer of hope for those who have waited too long already.

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