Family of soldier killed in Guildford pub bombings denied legal aid for inquest

Family of soldier killed in Guildford pub bombings denied legal aid for inquest

The denial of legal aid for the family of a young female soldier killed in the Guildford pub bombings has been described as a “travesty”.

Private Ann Hamilton, 19, was one of five people killed by the IRA bombs which devastated two pubs in the Surrey town on October 5, 1974.

Private Caroline Slater, 19, Guardsmen John Hunter, 18, and William Forsyth, 17, of the Scots Guards, and a 21-year-old civilian, Paul Craig, were also killed, while 65 others were injured.

The wrecked Horse and Groom public house in North Street, one of two pubs in Guildford which suffered bomb explosions (PA)
The wrecked Horse and Groom public house in North Street, one of two pubs in Guildford which suffered bomb explosions (PA)

The inquest into the atrocity was suspended in 1975 following the conviction of Gerry Conlon, Paddy Armstrong, Paul Hill and Carole Richardson, known as the Guildford Four.

Their convictions, along with the Maguire Seven, were later quashed.

Earlier this year, the senior coroner for Surrey ordered the original inquest into the bombings to be resumed.

However the Legal Aid Agency in London has denied an application by Ms Hamilton’s family to allow them legal representation at the inquest.

The refusal follows a battle by the families of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings to secure legal representation in the recent Birmingham inquest, following four years of pro bono representation by the KRW law firm and counsel on their behalf.

The inquest will be a travesty without enabling all victims to effectively participate with the benefit of effective and independent legal representation.

Christopher Stanley of KRW said the Hamilton family is “effectively being excluded” from participating in the inquest.

“Again, a family have been excluded from effectively participating into the inquest into the death of their loved one whilst the state agencies – the police, the MoD – have legal representation at taxpayers’ expense,” he said.

“This will be a long and complex process of investigation.

“We will make representations to both the Lord Chancellor and the Home Secretary, but unless the matter of public funding can be resolved or reformed then the family of Ann Hamilton will not be able to engage with this process, which will be a further injustice.”

Solicitor Kevin Winters has described the denial of legal aid for the Hamilton family as a ‘travesty’ (PA)
Solicitor Kevin Winters has described the denial of legal aid for the Hamilton family as a ‘travesty’ (PA)

Kevin Winters of KRW added: “Our firm cannot sustain pro bono assistance in this matter following our commitment to the Birmingham families.

“We have got to the stage of assisting the family of Ann Hamilton and Yvonne Tagg (a survivor of the blasts) and through our representations we have secured the resumption of the Guildford pub bombings’ 1974 inquest.

“There is now a long process of disclosure of material and determining the scope of this investigation.

“Without our continued support our clients will not be able to engage in this process and will be, once again effectively excluded.

“We are also aware of the importance of the Guildford pub bombing 1974 inquest to the remaining members of the Guildford Four and their families, including our client Bridie Brennan, the niece of Gerry Conlon.

“The inquest will be a travesty without enabling all victims to effectively participate with the benefit of effective and independent legal representation.”

- Press Association

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