Hillsborough Review backs ‘Hillsborough Law’

Wednesday 1 November 2017

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The author, Reverend James Jones, a former Bishop of Liverpool and chair of the Hillsborough Independent Panel makes a number of strong recommendations on the response of public bodies to state related deaths, and the involvement of bereaved families in these processes.

This report is the second this week, after Dame Elish Angiolini’s review on deaths in police custody, to make significant recommendations on post death investigations and family support.

Patrick Roche and Terry Munyard from the Garden Court Inquests & Inquiries Team made representations to the Bishop advocating several of the measures recommended in his report and they participated in drafting the ‘Hillsborough Law’ (formally titled 'The Public Authorities Accountability Bill').

The Bishop’s report makes 25 recommendations including:

  • A ‘Charter for Families Bereaved through Public Tragedy’ in which public bodies would commit to placing the public interest above their reputation and approach forms of public scrutiny such as inquiries and inquests with candour.
  • ‘Proper participation’ of bereaved families at inquests, including non-means tested, publicly-funded legal representation for bereaved families at inquests at which public bodies are represented; the cost of which would be borne by the government departments whose agencies are frequently represented at inquests.
  • Proportionate legal funding of public bodies meaning public bodies are not able to use public money to fund legal representation more advantageous than that which is available to families.
  • Cultural change at inquests which would ensure the process is not adversarial, but inquisitorial as intended, upheld by relevant Secretaries of State who should make clear how public bodies should approach inquests.
  • Bereaved families put at the heart of inquests, through training of coroners that includes bereaved families, and renewed guidance from the Chief Coroner.

Seventeen barristers from Garden Court Chambers were involved in the Hillsborough inquests, representing 80 families of those who died as a result of the events at the Hillsborough Stadium disaster on 15 April 1989.

The Hillsborough family lawyers welcomed the review and called for ‘Hillsborough law’ to be brought through parliament, saying: “The law will criminalise coverups and should be brought into effect urgently and before The Grenfell Inquiry.”

Patrick Roche, one of the Garden Court barristers who represented the families said: “The Bishop’s report makes a compelling case for a complete change in the culture of public authorities so that they admit errors and learn from their mistakes instead of covering them up. The Government must move quickly to enact a Hillsborough Law which can help the victims of Grenfell and future disasters.”

The Bishop’s Review has been widely reported in the media including the Guardian.

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