Police from across the UK have responded to a 2017 government-commissioned report into the Hillsborough disaster, acknowledging wrongdoing and committing to “cultural change”. Five years on, the Home Office has yet to respond.
Bishop James Jones was commissioned by then-Home Secretary Theresa May to provide an insight into the experiences of Hillsborough families since the disaster in 1989. The report, titled “The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power”, was published in 2017. It identified 25 “Points of Learning”, including legal support for the bereaved in inquests, and the imposition of a ‘Duty of Candour’ on the police.
Today, a joint response was issued by the College of Policing and National Police Chief’s Council, apologising for the treatment of the families. Andy Marsh, the CEO of the College of Policing, said “Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy and have continued to blight the lives of family members ever since.” Martin Hewitt, chair of the NPCC, said “Collectively, the changes made since the Hillsborough disaster and in response to Rt Reverend James Jones’s report aim to ensure the terrible police failures made on the day and in the aftermath can never happen again”.
The Home Office, which commissioned the report five years ago, has yet to respond to it, stating that it is “working with the relevant government departments and organisations to carefully consider the points of learning”. Bishop James Jones, the author of the report, described this as “intolerable”… for the families to wait so long for a response to these 25 points of learning adds to their pain and, I think, in some instances even affects their grieving.” Margaret Aspinall, the mother of one of the Hillsborough victims, stated bluntly, “We are now in 2023. How long does it take to read a report?”
Hillsborough is the largest sporting tragedy in British History. 97 football fans died, and nearly 800 were injured. Initial responses by police and press blamed drunken fans for the deaths, and an initial inquest concluded with a verdict of accidental death. 25 years later, a second inquest was held, holding that the supporters had been unlawfully killed due to gross negligence by police.