The government has today finally outlined its response to the 2017 report on the Hillsborough injustices, bringing hope and closure to the relatives of the 97 people tragically killed in the 1989 disaster. The report, commissioned by former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2016 and led by James Jones, the former bishop of Liverpool, has been a crucial catalyst for reform following the unlawful deaths of football fans at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
The Government’s response includes three key initiatives:
Hillsborough Charter: The government have signed the ‘Hillsborough Charter’ which broadly speaking promises no families will have to suffer the same injustices as those of the relatives of the disaster’s victims.
Duty of Candour: Promised to implement a duty of candour for policing in England and Wales, which aims to promote a culture of openness, honesty and transparency during investigations and public enquiries.
Consultation of Legal Aid: Agreed to a consultation which is to be launched to improve legal aid for bereaved families in the aftermath of terrorist incidents or public disasters.
Currently, there exists no clearly defined legal duty for state bodies to be transparent in such circumstances. Unlike the Hillsborough Law proposed by families, the Hillsborough Charter will only cover police officers and not other public authorities such as councils, social services, fire and ambulance services and thus falls short of implementing a comprehensive duty of candour.
The aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster brought to light a cover-up that resonates with similar issues seen in recent public inquiries such as the Anthony Grainger Inquiry, to which Farleys were instructed, and the Manchester Arena bombing and Grenfell Tower disaster. These incidents, along with hundreds of inquests involving individuals dying in state detention underscore the urgent need for a comprehensive legal framework to address systemic shortcomings within police services, councils, social services, and fire and ambulance services.
Another key concern highlighted within Bishop Jones’ report was that families should always have access to legal representation at inquests. The Government have today reaffirmed their commitment to expanding legal aid for bereaved families in the aftermath of a public disaster, where an independent public advocate is engaged, or a terrorist incident; however, it remains to be seen how such changes will be implemented.
Whilst the government’s response is long overdue, it marks a pivotal moment in the journey towards justice and accountability. As the families of victims strive to bring about legal reforms, there is hope that this response signifies a turning point in preventing future tragedies and ensuring transparency in matters of public safety.
At Farleys, our experienced inquest team understand the distress and anguish that a death of a family member can cause. We can provide advice, assistance, and representation to ensure that you are fully supported throughout such a difficult time. It is important that your concerns surrounding the death of your family member are appropriately addressed.
If you require assistance with the inquest process but are concerned about how much it will cost to obtain such representation, you may be eligible for public funding. For legal advice regarding the death of a loved one please don’t hesitate to contact our experienced inquest department on 0845 287 0939 or alternatively you can email us.