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'Hillsborough Law': Andy Burnham introduces bill to parliament

Hillsborough disaster Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster were fully exonerated of any blame at the new inquests last year

A law which compels public officials to be truthful at inquiries and ensures legal aid for bereaved families has been introduced to parliament.

Former shadow home secretary Andy Burnham outlined the proposed "Hillsborough Law" in the Commons.

It makes lying or hiding the truth at inquests punishable by a prison term.

The Hillsborough victims' families called for new legislation following inquest conclusions that 96 fans were unlawfully killed.

They campaigned for 27 years for the truth despite senior officers' lies and an alleged cover-up.

'Characters denigrated'

The Hillsborough Law, or the Public Authority (Accountability) Bill, would make it illegal for those in public service to give misleading information. The bill also contains penalties and fines for those who are wilfully non-compliant.

The Labour MP said it "empowers victims to secure disclosure of crucial information and prevent public authorities from lying to them or hiding the truth".

It also makes it an offence for such a line to be pedalled to the media, he added.

Image copyright HofC
Image caption Andy Burnham described the difficulties faced by the Hillsborough families and warns that "we cannot say this will not happen again".

The MP for Leigh said the establishment had failed to learn lessons from the Hillsborough cover-up as he introduced draft legislation through a 10-minute rule motion.

The law would protect other families from going through what the Hillsborough families went through, offering families the same resources as public bodies to make their case at inquests.

He cited some who had "not just been denied legal funding, but have had their characters denigrated by lawyers [working] for public bodies".

He described the "shoddy" treatment of the families of the victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, who he said had been made to "beg" for legal aid, and told MPs about a family denied legal aid after their son died in flooding in Surrey.

Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption The Hillsborough victims' families campaigned for 27 years for justice

Mr Burnham said public bodies hired "the best QCs in the land", adding it was essential for there to be a "level legal playing field" for families.

He said: "How much longer are we going to let vast sums of public money be used to torment families in this way?

"And if the state can cover up 96 deaths at a football match, shouldn't we be concerned at what it might do to individuals?"

The bill was approved at the first stage and will be given a second reading on 12 May.

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