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Hillsborough mum calls for 'fair' funding for legal battles

Margaret Aspinall addresses MPs Image copyright PA
Image caption Margaret Aspinall said it was disgrace the way South Yorkshire Police was funded

A mother who lost her son at Hillsborough has called for a "level playing field" for bereaved families in legal fights against public bodies.

Margaret Aspinall told MPs it was a "disgrace" South Yorkshire Police was publicly-funded during the inquests but the families were not.

Her call came after Labour said funds should be made available for relatives in Hillsborough-type legal fights.

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham said the odds were stacked against families.

Speaking during an event in Westminster chaired by Mr Burnham, Mrs Aspinall attacked cuts to legal aid.

The Hillsborough Family Support Group chairwoman, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the 1989 disaster, said: "The police cannot be funded the way South Yorkshire were funded.

"To go back into court for two years, and for them to be funded again to come out with the same lies again is a disgrace.

"At least give the victims a level playing field."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mrs Aspinall told MPs everyone 'deserves fairness'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among the MPs who listened to Mrs Aspinall's comments at Portcullis House.

She broke down in tears as she described how she had to accept an insurance payout of just over £1,000 after her son's death, because she was told she had to raise £3,000 to pay for a barrister at the original inquest in 1990.

She said: "All of you sitting here are no better than anyone else. Everybody deserves fairness in this country.

"It's up to the government, opposition, everyone to work as a unit to get to the truth.

"It was a massive cover-up. If they can do that on the scale of 96, what have they done to individuals?"

'Prevented scrutiny'

Mr Burnham told the BBC: "In the original inquest you had a situation where the police were spending lots of public money to make sure they were represented.

"But the families had to scratch around for whatever they could get.

"If the families had been able to get good quality lawyers like they had in the recent inquests, I believe they would have been able to challenge that cruel 3.15 cut-off that prevented scrutiny of the shambolic emergency response."

In the first inquest the coroner decided not to take evidence after 15:15 from the day of the disaster, ruling that the victims had either died or received the injuries which led to their deaths by that time.

Mr Burnham said: "If the families had better legal representation back in the day the whole Hillsborough story would have been different."

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