A miscarriage of justice victim has spoken out following the announcement by Birmingham’s senior coroner that she is to reopen the inquest into the 1974 bombings in the city, in which 21 people died.
The Birmingham coroner said she had received “significant” new information that police had information from two sources of the planned IRA attacks -- but allowed them to proceed for reasons never revealed. Her decision to reopen the inquest had been vigorously opposed by the West Midlands police.
At the time, the IRA blamed the loss of life on the failure of coin-operated telephone boxes, which were to be used to issue bomb warnings to clear the city centre district. It was a major setback for the organisation, which lost support across both islands. But the reaction of the English police to the tragedy had always baffled.
A year later, six innocent Irishmen, the Birmingham Six, were wrongly jailed for the attacks in what became a notorious miscarriage of justice. One of those brutally beaten by the force into confessing involvement, Paddy Hill, has now accused the British establishment of a massive cover-up.
“For me the question that I want answered, and it’s the question I’ve been asking myself for 42 years, is who gave the orders for us to be the scapegoats, who gave the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad the order to torture and frame innocent people?
“The Birmingham police told us right from the beginning that they knew we were innocent and that we had nothing to do with the bombing, but they also told us that we’d been selected,” he said.
He recalled how police told him they had been ordered by those high up to secure the convictions using any means necessary.
“Our orders are to get confessions, and convictions and we’re to use any means that we have to to obtain them, don’t worry we’re covered all the way to the top.
“It’s been an institutional failure from beginning to end and it’s been an institutional cover up from then until now. I have no doubts about that,” he said.
But he is doubtful that the inquest will bring him any personal peace.
“I’ll never get my life back, we’ve already been diagnosed by a psychiatrist as some of the most damaged men with the highest level of PTSD, higher than most soldiers, the damage is irreversible.”
However, he is defiant in his quest for the truth and hopes the reopening of the inquest will finally get him the answers he so desperately craves.
Speakung outside the court after the coroner’s decision, he said: “We will never get justice but I tell you one thing that we can get and that’s the one thing we deserve the most - the truth. It’s not so much me, I know the truth, I want this for the families.
“They have had their whole worlds collapsed twice, once when we got convicted and they had something to focus on - they thought the guilty people were in prison.
“Then we get released and ever since, they’ve been fighting for this for 20 years.”
The former prisoner who wrongly spent 16 years behind bars, also criticised West Midlands Police.
“I don’t think the Birmingham police could spell the word ‘truth’, never mind tell it. They’re rotten,” he said.
“This is the first step on the road to hopefully getting a bit nearer the truth. Whether we will get the whole truth or not, I’m not sure. I’m very sceptical about that.”
Asked by reporters why he thought the West Midlands force had opposed the families’ legal bid for the coroner to resume the inquests, Mr Hill said: “There’s too many skeletons in the cupboard.”