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Government to publish long-awaited response to Hillsborough report next month

ByReport2

Nov 7, 2023

The government will publish its full response to a vital report into the Hillsborough disaster next month.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has written to family members of those who died in the 1989 disaster, informing them that the government will publish its response to a report by the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones into the experience of the Hillsborough families on December 6.

Published in 2017, the Bishop's report was seen as a significant moment in the journey of all those affected by the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. Bishop Jones was tasked with examining the experiences of the Hillsborough families after the conclusion of new inquests in 2016.

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Those inquests – the longest jury hearings in British history – ended with jurors ruling the Reds fans who died at the FA Cup semi-final were unlawfully killed. Jurors also found that Liverpool FC fans, who had travelled to Sheffield to watch their side take on Nottingham Forest, were not to blame for the disaster.

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Following those verdicts, then Home Secretary Theresa May asked Bishop Jones to compile the report so that lessons could be learnt in a bid to stop others affected by major tragedies having the same experiences as the Hillsborough Families in their fight for truth and justice.

The 117-page report raised damning questions over the integrity of public bodies when they come under scrutiny following major tragedies such as Hillsborough. It highlighted the "patronising disposition of unaccountable power” that exists in the country and said public institutions too often sacrifice the public interest for the defence of their own actions.

Bishop James identified 25 key points of learning in his report, including a charter that all public bodies should sign that would see them commit to rescuing victims, supporting the bereaved and protecting the vulnerable in the event of a public tragedy. It also called for a 'duty of candour' to force those in public positions to fully cooperate with investigations and for fairer funding to be on offer for those affected by major tragedies as the public institutions they are challenging.

These measures form the basis of a proposed new Hillsborough Law, which families and campaigners have called for – and which the Labour Party has committed to bringing onto the statute book if it forms the next government.

The families and campaigners have been frustrated by frequent delays to the publication of the government's response to the report over the past six years.

In her letter, Ms Braverman confirmed that the response in full will be published next month on December 6, with the families presented with copies of the response before it is published widely later in the day.

The Home Secretary also confirmed that in the coming weeks, legislation will be brought forward in Parliament relating to the recommendation in Bishop James report for a duty of candour on policing.

She said the new laws will place a legal requirement on the College of Policing to issue a Code of Practice for Ethical Policing and for that code to contain a duty of candour. This will be aimed at chief constables, requiring them to ensure an ethical culture in the forces they lead.

It had been reported in a national newspaper that the duty of candour legislation would be announced in today's King's Speech, labelling it a "Hillsborough Law", but that was not the case.

The government did, however, publish plans to introduce an Independent Public Advocate, which it says will work on behalf of victims of major incidents like the Hillsborough disaster, the Manchester Arena bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire.

The position will "act as an advocate for victims and support them to access services, helping them navigate the processes that follow a major incident or public disaster, and provide support for victims and their families."

Today's announcements still fall short of the calls for a full Hillsborough Law. As well as a public advocate, the Hillsborough Law also calls for legal aid to be provided to victims of disaster or state-related deaths to ensure parity of legal representation during inquests and inquiries.

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