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Guildford pub bombings inquest update

In January this year, it was announced that an inquest into the Guildford pub bombings would be resumed. Two bomb attacks were carried out by a subgroup of the Provisional Irish Republican Army on 5th October 1974 at two pubs in Guildford, Surrey, England. Five people were killed (four soldiers and one civilian) and 65 people were injured. The pubs were targeted because they were popular with British Army personnel stationed at the nearby Pirbright barracks.

The original inquest into the bombings was suspended in 1975 after a group of men who would later become known as the Guilford Four were convicted for the attacks. Another group of people, the Maguire Seven, were convicted in 1976 of crimes relating to the attacks. Both groups’ convictions were later quashed in 1989 and 1991 respectively and their cases are widely regarded as some of Britain's biggest miscarriages of justice.

During a pre-inquest hearing in June, the Coroner, Richard Travers, explained that he had written to various bodies included two police services, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office requesting access to classified and un-classified documents relating to the bombings. It is estimated that there could be thousands of documents held by the various bodies relating to the attacks. 700 of these documents could come from a public inquiry into the Guilford Four and Maguire Seven miscarriages of justice which was chaired by Sir John May and reported in 1994.

This week, the Legal Aid Agency (“LAA”) decided not to grant the family of Soldier Ann Hamilton, one of those who died in the bombings, Legal Aid to fund their legal representation at the inquest. At the pre-inquest review, coroner Richard Travers said he had written to the LAA in support of the family's application for funding, but he did not have the ability to grant it himself. Relatives of Ann Hamilton have described the decision as a travesty.  Lawyers representing the family intend to make representations to the Lord Chancellor and Home Secretary.

The LAA’s decision comes amid calls for legal aid to be granted to victims’ families at terror related inquests following the inquest into the London Bridge terror attack. The charity, Inquest, is also currently campaigning for bereaved families to be granted automatic non means tested funding for legal representation following state related deaths. For further information about this campaign, please see here.

At Saunders Law, we offer expert legal assistance and representation in inquests and inquiries into non-natural deaths. We’re well-known for our inquest work and thorough approach to complex cases. We are ranked as a leading firm in The Legal 500 for Civil Liberties and Human Rights, and Administrative and Public Law, and in Chambers & Partners for Police Law: Mainly Claimant. For more information about the Inquest process, Saunders Law has produce this helpful guide.

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