MP who survived Hillsborough backs new law for equal justice

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A city politician who survived the Leppings Lane crushes at Hillsborough wants a law to ensure those affected by disasters involving the state have equal access to justice.

Ian Byrne, MP for West Derby, was 17 when he watched people being crushed to death at the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

He said that legislation is needed in order to create a "level playing field" for those involved in future disasters.

It follows a move from Garston and Halewood MP MP Maria Eagle who today introduced the Public Advocate Bill after campaigning for accountability over the tragedy for the last three decades.

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It passed its first reading this afternoon in the House of Commons.

It aims to create a dedicated independent adviser to work on behalf of families bereaved in major tragedies.

Survivors and the families of the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives have led a 30-year campaign for justice, after a 1991 jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

A window display in tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy in Skerries Road, Anfield. Photo: Andy Teebay

New inquests into the disaster in 2016 concluded they were unlawfully killed.

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Today, Mr Byrne recalled his memories of the day and the aftermath in a powerful interview.

He said: "It didn't feel right," he said of arriving at the ground, the home of Sheffield Wednesday.

"I got in there early because I was with two friends and my girlfriend at the time, we were only 17 and we were behind the goal.

"We were clearly fortunate because it was getting really bad in there and the girl at the time got a bit upset and said, 'I've got to get out of here'.

"So we forced our way out and we were really lucky, it was just before the crush started, so we pushed our way out and a few friends said, 'no we're staying', because the atmosphere behind the goal was always excellent.

A Hillsborough memorial banner at Anfield today

"So I said, 'OK, I'll see you after the game', and then a hand came and got hold of me, it was my mate and he said, 'no, we've come together, we'll go together'.

"So we all fought our way out and went to the side and then we watched it unfold. We'd moved out of the main gate entrance, we'd moved to the side and it was empty.

"There were spaces and we were watching people getting crushed to their deaths within a small perimeter, and where we were it was just empty, you could walk around, and that's something I'll never, ever forget."

Mr Byrne said his dad had also been behind the goal with his friends at the match, and was taken to hospital with serious injuries as a result of the crushing.

He said: "It was really difficult, and obviously you're 17 years of age and then you open up the paper the next couple of days and you get called a murderer, you get called 'urinating on them fans', and you know, that wasn't what we were seeing, we were seeing fans' heroic actions.

"So that sort of narrative…(that's) something I'll never, ever forget and never, ever want to forget to be honest, because that probably gives me the burning sense of injustice."

MP Ian Byrne

Mr Byrne was a co-signatory of the Public Advocate Bill which was introduced today.

He added: "I think what this bill would give you is a level playing field for people moving forward who were involved in any disasters that's involved the state or state agencies.

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"And we never had that.

"…so hopefully this bill will enable normal people involved in this to have the same access to justice as them state agencies, and I applaud Maria for putting this through, something that's hugely important."