The family of a victim of the Birmingham pub bombings is filing a civil lawsuit for damages in connection with the attacks.
Margaret Smith, mother of the victim of the Maxine Hambleton bombings, has issued a civil order against Michael Patrick Reilly.
Mrs. Smith is also suing West Midlands Police Chief Sir David Thompson, alleging that the force’s investigation was conducted negligently and in breach of his legal duty.
It is the latest twist in the long-running campaign for justice for victims’ relatives.
Two explosions destroyed the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs downtown on the night of November 21, 1974 – killing 21 people and injuring more than 200.
A third bomb failed to explode and was recovered, but later lost, by West Midlands Police.
Reilly, now in his 60s, was arrested in November 2020 under the Terrorism Act and questioned by West Midlands police in connection with the bombings.
He was unconditionally released after a search of his Belfast home address.
Reilly has always denied any knowledge of – or involvement – in the bombings.
His attorney Padraig O’Muirigh said: “I can confirm that legal proceedings have been brought against our client.
“Our client fully repudiates the plaintiff’s allegations and the lawsuits filed will be vehemently defended.
“My client was never convicted of any crime related to the 1974 bombings.”
No one has ever been brought to justice for the attacks, which came at the height of an IRA bombing campaign in mainland Britain.
The Birmingham six were convicted of involvement in 1975 and sentenced to life in prison, but released after 16 years when the Court of Appeal in 1991 ruled their convictions were unsafe.
The legal measure follows a successful civil suit in 2009 by the families of victims of the 1998 Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland.
However, it took nearly six years for Omagh activists to raise the £2million needed to fund their case – including an £800,000 donation of government money.
This is the only step left for families like ours
The Hambleton family is applying for legal assistance in Northern Ireland to help fund the action, but if they don’t succeed, they will have to turn to donations.
A subpoena was delivered to both the West Midlands force’s headquarters in Birmingham and Reilly’s lawyers last month.
The warrant has now been issued as the proposed new Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, currently pending in Parliament, would prohibit further civil claims related to the troubles.
Julie Hambleton, who was the younger sister of 18-year-old Maxine, said: “Our Belfast-based legal team sent a warrant to Michael Patrick Reilly so that we could file a civil case against him.
“Also, West Midlands Chief of Police David Thompson.”
Mrs. Hambleton runs the group Justice4the21, which in recent years has urged authorities to carry out a public inquiry into the attacks, which remain unsolved.
She added: “The warrant is to sue for damages in the Belfast High Court for Reilly’s alleged involvement in the murder of Maxine Hambleton, who was my sister.”
“This is the only step left for families like ours, because successive British governments have refused to help families like ours get justice any other way,” she said.
“The threshold for a civil case is not as high as a criminal case, as was discovered with the case brought by the families of the Omagh bombing, who successfully brought a case for the murder of their loved ones.”
A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: “We can confirm that we have received a civil warrant.”