Police force defends fines for relatives of Birmingham pub bombing for breaching COVID rules at memorial

Ellen Manning
FILE PICTURE - Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was one of the 21 people killed in the 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings. See SWNS story SWMDbombings.  A man has been arrested in connection with the deaths of 21 people in the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham. The blasts at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on the night of 21 November also injured 220 people.  Officers from Counter Terrorism Policing West Midlands, working with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, arrested the 65-year-old at his home in Belfast.  He was detained under the Terrorism Act and his home is being searched.  The 65-year-old will be interviewed under caution at a police station in Northern Ireland, police said.
Julie Hambleton and six other people whose relatives were killed in the Birmingham pub bombing were handed £200 fixed penalty notices for breaching coronavirus rules at a memorial event. (SWNS)

A police chief has defended fining relatives of victims of the Birmingham pub bombings for breaching coronavirus restrictions at a memorial event despite the force apparently allowing it to go ahead.

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed in the IRA attack in 1974, was slapped with a £200 fixed penalty notice alongside six others after the memorial in November - during the second coronavirus lockdown.

West Midlands Police issued the fines after Hambleton and other relatives of the 21 people killed in the atrocity held a convoy through Birmingham to mark the anniversary of the bombings on November 21 last year.

Two local MPs branded the decision to issue the fines over alleged COVID rule breaches “morally wrong”.

But on Sunday West Midlands Police Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd defended the decision.

FILE PICTURE - Interior of the Mulberry Bush, after the Birmingham pub bombings.  See SWNS story SWMDbombings.  A man has been arrested in connection with the deaths of 21 people in the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham. The blasts at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on the night of 21 November also injured 220 people.  Officers from Counter Terrorism Policing West Midlands, working with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, arrested the 65-year-old at his home in Belfast.  He was detained under the Terrorism Act and his home is being searched.  The 65-year-old will be interviewed under caution at a police station in Northern Ireland, police said.
Relatives of victims killed in the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974 had organised a memorial convoy in the city. (SWNS)

He said: “We’re aware of a letter which has been sent to our Chief Constable by two local MPs.

“A number of fixed penalty notices were issued following a gathering outside West Midlands Police headquarters on 21 November.

“Following a review, the people present were found to be in breach of regulation nine of coronavirus legislation. This relates to gatherings of more than two people in a public place.”

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He said police had been given advanced notice of a planned convoy of vehicles in Birmingham on November 21, which was deemed not to be in breach of COVID regulations.

But when the convoy paused in Bromsgrove Street, there was a gathering on foot which he said was in breach of restrictions.

“We spoke to the people present and reminded them that such gatherings were in breach of regulations. They left a little while later and so no further action was taken.

"However, a short time later members of the same group gathered again outside West Midlands Police headquarters, in breach of lockdown regulations. Approximately 20 people gathered for around 15 minutes before leaving.”

He said the evidence had been reviewed since November and police had decided that the fine were appropriate - confirming that seven people in total had been issued with a £200 fixed penalty notice.”

He added: “We accept the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest is a key part of any democracy.

“However, coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread.

"We continue to encourage people to comply with the regulations to keep everyone as safe as possible.

“If there are breaches it’s our responsibility to take action.”

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown