Liverpool

Hillsborough report urges change of attitude

The Hillsborough disaster Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption Ninety-six fans died as a result of a crush at Sheffield Wednesday's ground

The "burning injustice" felt by those affected by public disasters must end, a report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families has found.

Bishop James Jones said "a change in attitude" was needed to ensure their "pain and suffering" was not repeated.

He called for a charter for bereaved families, the right to publicly-funded legal representation and a "duty of candour" for police officers.

The bishop also praised the families' "exceptional" tenacity over 28 years.

And he said he was "confident" that anyone affected by the Grenfell Tower fire could read his findings and see "many, many resonances".

The 117-page report was commissioned by Theresa May when she was home secretary after verdicts of unlawful killing were returned in the second Hillsborough inquests last year.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Bishop James Jones submitted his report to the government in June

The 96 Liverpool fans were fatally crushed at an FA Cup semi-final match against Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989.

Bishop Jones said: "What is needed is a change in attitude, culture, heart and mind.

"To bring this about, I first ask that those in positions of leadership listen seriously to the experiences of the Hillsborough families described in this report.

The former Bishop of Liverpool set out 25 "essential" learning points in his report, titled The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power, and called for three crucial ones:

  • A charter for families bereaved by public tragedy
  • Proper participation of bereaved families at inquests
  • The creation of a "duty of candour" for police officers

He said: "The experience of the Hillsborough families demonstrates the need for a substantial change in the culture of public bodies."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The report comes after inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at a 1989 match

He added: "I suggest that the way in which families bereaved through public tragedy are treated by those in authority is in itself a burning injustice which must be addressed."

Bishop Jones proposed that public bodies sign up to a Charter for Families Bereaved Through Public Tragedy, compelling them to approach public inquiries and inquests in an "open, honest and transparent way".

He called for a "duty of candour" which would require police officers, serving or retired, to cooperate fully with investigations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission or its successor.

The bishop said the response of South Yorkshire Police to criticism over Hillsborough showed "institutional defensiveness" and recommended training for senior officers to ensure an "open and transparent approach" to inquiries.

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Media captionHillsborough families report: "Why has it taken 28 years?"

The report said the first inquests failed to accurately establish how the 96 came about their deaths, and families were unable to successfully challenge their "flawed basis" because their legal representation was inadequate.

In the report, Bishop Jones praised the "bravery and tenacity" of the Hillsborough families.

"But the fact that this level of resolve and persistence was necessary demonstrates a systemic failure of the processes that should work to bring about accountability and justice," he said.

He called for a change to procedures, as well as an end to authorities "spending limitless sums" on representation.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Margaret Aspinall welcomed the report

The Bishop supported the introduction of a "Hillsborough Law", which has been called for by families and would make it a criminal offence for public officials to cover up wrongdoing.

Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall, whose son James died in the disaster, said she was "very, very pleased" with the report.

She added: "No family deserves to go through [what we went through]. It was torture, it is still torture really. It is important the lessons are learned."

Prime Minister Theresa May said the families of the victims, who had been "dignified throughout the many years that they have been waiting for justice", would not be forgotten.

"I have always been very clear that the experience that the Hillsborough families had should not be repeated - that's why we have looked and we are committed to the concept of the public advocate because we want to ensure that people have the support that they need," she said.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "The government will now carefully study the 25 points of learning and we will provide a full response in due course."

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