Miscarriage of justice: Birmingham Six The Birmingham Six were six men, Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker, sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975 in the United Kingdom for the Birmingham pub bombings. Their convictions were declared unsafe and overturned by the Court of Appeal on 14 March 1991. The six men were later awarded compensation ranging from ? 840,000 to ? 1. 2 million.
The Birmingham pub bombings took place on 21 November 1974 and were attributed to the Provisional IRA. The devices were placed in two central Birmingham pubs: the Mulberry Bush at the foot of the Rotunda, and the Tavern in the Town – a basement pub on New Street. The resulting explosions, at 20:25 and 20:27, collectively were the most injurious and serious terrorist blasts on the island of Great Britain up until that point; 21 people were killed (ten at the Mulberry Bush and eleven at the Tavern in the Town) and 162 people were injured.
A third device, outside a bank on Hagley Road, failed to detonate. The men claimed in court they had confessed only after being beaten by police. But the court did not believe them and so began their long battle for justice. In January 1987, their first appeal was rejected. But the campaign for their release gathered pace headed by the Labour MP Chris Mullin. A new inquiry by Devon and Cornwall Police into the original inquiry uncovered irregularities in the police case against the Six.
It paved the way for today’s appeal. New scientific tests show statements made by the Birmingham Six were altered at a later date. Scientists also admitted in court that forensic tests which were originally said to confirm two of the six had been handling explosives could have produced the same results from handling cigarettes. The collapse of the case and other miscarriages of justice caused the Home Secretary to set up a Royal Commission on Criminal Justice in 1991.
The commission reported in 1993 and led to the Criminal Appeal Act of 1995 and the establishment of the Criminal Cases Review Commission in 1997. Superintendent George Reade and two other police officers were charged with perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice but were never prosecuted. Richard McIlkenny died in a Dublin hospital on 21 May 2006, following a lengthy battle with cancer.