Government to respond today to Hillsborough football disaster report

Government will respond today to report into Hillsborough football disaster that claimed 97 lives – more than six years after it was published

  • Fans were unlawfully killed after errors by the police and ambulance service

The Government will respond today to a report on the experiences of the Hillsborough tragedy families – more than six years after it was published.

Former Bishop of Liverpool the Right Reverend James Jones published the review in November 2017 following inquests into the deaths at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield – where 97 Liverpool FC fans died.

But the findings of report, titled The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power, have not yet been addressed by the Government despite its earlier release.

It set out 25 ‘essential’ learning points and called for the establishment of a charter for families bereaved by public tragedy, publicly-funded legal representation for families at inquests where public bodies are represented, and a ‘duty of candour’ for police officers.

Former Bishop of Liverpool the Right Reverend James Jones published the review in November 2017

Supporters and police help carry injured fans away from the scene of the crush in April 1989

Families of the 1989 tragedy’s victims welcomed the findings by Revd Jones and called for changes, including a charter for public bodies, to be implemented urgently

In November, the Ministry of Justice it would establish an Independent Public Advocate to provide support for victims of major disasters in England and Wales.

What did the landmark 2017 Hillsborough disaster report find? 

25 ‘essential’ learning points were found in The Rt Revd James Jones’s The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power report.

His 117-page report, commissioned by the then home secretary Theresa May, detailed the response of those in power to the bereaved families of Hillsborough victims in the years following the disaster. 

The former Bishop of Liverpool highlighted a ‘change in attitude’ was required to ensure the ‘pain and suffering’ of relatives of those who died was never repeated. 

He said at the time: ‘The experience of Hillsborough families demonstrates the need for a substantial change in the culture of public bodies.

‘I suggest that the way in which families bereaved through public tragedy are treated by those in authority is in itself a burning injustice which must be addressed.’ 

Among his recommendations, were the implementation of a ‘duty of candour’ for police officers, a charter for families bereaved by public tragedy and greater participation of grieving families at inquests.

The right to publicly funded legal representation was also suggested.

And last year the Home Office commissioned an independent review to consider what went wrong with the original pathology report into the deaths, following a recommendation from the former bishop.

The families of those who died in the disaster are expected to see the Government’s full response to the report on this morning, before it is published at midday.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Jones, who was Bishop of Liverpool from 1998 to 2013 and chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel, said the day will be a ‘milestone’ for the families.

He said: ‘One of the things that I’ve said is that grief is a journey without destination.

‘There are milestones along the way and, of course, the panel report and the inquest and unlawful killing (ruling) were very significant milestones for the families, and today will also be such a milestone for them.’

Campaigners are calling for a ‘Hillsborough Law’ or Public Authority (Accountability) Bill, which would create a legal duty of candour on public authorities and officials to tell the truth and proactively co-operate with official investigations and inquiries.

Inquests into the deaths at the match, between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, concluded in 2016 and found that fans were unlawfully killed and errors by the police and ambulance service caused or contributed to their deaths. 

Bishop Jones added: ‘The report has 25 recommendations, and I understand that the Government will respond to each and every one of those.

‘There were three principal recommendations: Firstly, a charter for those bereaved through public tragedy so that public bodies can sign this and promise those affected by a tragedy that they will put their needs and rights above them trying to protect their own reputation.

‘Secondly, a duty of candour, certainly on the police, but wider than that – for all public bodies.

Floral tributes laid outside the Kop end of Anfield the day after the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989

‘Thirdly, that when people come to an inquest, to find out how and when their loved ones died, they then often encounter public bodies with some of the best lawyers in the country representing them, and they arrive in the inquest legally defenceless.

‘This is what happened at the first inquest for the Hillsborough families, 43 families had to club together to pay for just one barrister and some weren’t legally represented at all.’

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