The government has stopped short of implementing a ‘Hillsborough Law’ in response to the report into the tragedy initiated in 2017.
A ‘charter for families bereaved through public tragedy’ which was drawn up by the inquiry chair, the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, has been signed. However families, advocates and experts has lamented the fact that the government has failed to fully enact the inquiry’s proposals.
A report titled The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power was published by James Jones in November 2017. It made 25 recommendations. This followed inquests into the deaths of the 97 Liverpool fans who died as a result of a crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield.
Margaret Aspinall, whose son was one of those killed, said ‘97 innocent people were unlawfully killed and not one person has been held accountable. This is totally disappointing. We need [the] Hillsborough law’.
Aspinall told Sky News: ‘I want to be able to get on with my life and I’m sure the rest of the families do. But we’re not just here for the Hillsborough victims – we’re here for Grenfell, for the Manchester Arena Attack. We are here because we are concerned for the good of other people.’
The government has taken six years to respond to the report it commissioned, with the process initiated by Theresa May in 2017.
The government apologised for the delay saying it had ‘taken too long, compounding the agony of the Hillsborough families and survivors’. Jones said he welcomed the government’s decision to sign the charter but said he would ‘press for further action’.
The inquiry pushed for a law that would impose a ‘duty of candour’ on all civil servants. Officials have instead recommended a charter which would implement a duty of candour for police officers through separate legislation. Hillsborough families and campaigners have said this does not go far enough. Louise Brookes said the new charter was ‘not worth the paper it’s written on’.
The government said it would also consult on the possibility of increasing legal aid for inquests.
Elkan Abrahamson, Director of Hillsborough Law Now, said the government must make a duty of candour enforceable to ensure ‘a level playing field between public authorities and those affected by disasters and wrongdoing at inquests and inquiries’.
He added that to wait six years for a government response to a disaster that occurred 34 years ago ‘speaks volumes’.