No 10 finally to respond to 2017 report on Hillsborough injustices

Today, family members of the 97 individuals who lost their lives in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy will receive updates on the government’s plans to address the recommendations for comprehensive changes outlined in a report from six years ago regarding their experiences.

The findings of James Jones, the ex-bishop of Liverpool, were requested by former home secretary, Theresa May, in 2016 following a new investigation that concluded the 97 fatalities at the FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were the result of unlawful actions.

The panel determined that the fatalities resulting from a stampede on the Leppings Lane terrace were a result of reckless manslaughter by Ch Supt David Duckenfield, the South Yorkshire police officer in charge of the event.

The jury disregarded the force and individual officers’ claims that Liverpool supporters misbehaved at Hillsborough, which had been given for many years following the disaster. They concluded that the supporters’ actions did not play a role in the tragedy. These verdicts marked the end of a 25-year effort by the families to expose the police’s false statements and challenge the 1991 ruling of accidental death.

Jones’s report included 25 “learning points” that primarily focus on preventing cover-ups by police and public authorities and promoting better treatment of grieving individuals. The goal is to prevent the Hillsborough families from experiencing further pain and suffering.

The government’s delayed response to the 2017 report has caused more frustration and distress for families, who are advocating for a “Hillsborough law” to be the result of their pursuit for justice. This proposed law, written by Pete Weatherby KC, who served as legal counsel for 22 families during the 2014-16 inquests, would mandate a “duty of candour” for police and public authorities involved in investigations and court proceedings following a significant incident.

The main suggestion of the draft law is to provide equal funding for legal representation to bereaved individuals during inquests and public inquiries related to a major incident. This funding would be on par with what is currently available to police, public authorities, and involved companies.

The government recently suggested adding a “duty of candour” to the code of conduct for police chief constables. This would mandate them to make sure their officers behave with honesty and transparency.

Relatives of the Hillsborough victims have expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed solution, citing its limited scope to only apply to police, lack of specifics, and lack of apparent legal authority compared to the proposed Hillsborough law.

According to Steve Kelly, his brother Mike, aged 38, was among the 97 individuals who lost their lives at Hillsborough. Steve is determined to see Hillsborough law in place, so that families do not have to endure the same struggle for justice that his family faced for decades. He hopes that others can find courage through their fight. Steve has stated that if the government’s response to Bishop James’s report after six years does not meet the standards of Hillsborough law, he will not accept it.

In an interview with the Liverpool Echo in September, Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party, stated that he would implement the Hillsborough law if his party was victorious in the upcoming election.