Hillsborough Disaster: What Would the Proposed “Hillsborough Law” Mean for Affected Families?

By Holly Nesbitt

There are renewed calls for a ‘Hillsborough Law’ from families, campaigners, and public figures which would see changes to the current justice system; to prevent future families from enduring the agony of what the Hillsborough families have been subjected to for over thirty years

The campaign is backed by both Conservative and Labour politicians, with former Prime Ministers Theresa May and Gordon Brown signalling their support. According to the BBC, Mrs May stated that it would serve as a “valuable legacy” for the ninety-seven victims of the disaster, while Mr Brown has called for “no delays and no excuses” in the implementation of the law. The two spoke out during a Facebook Live event, ‘Hillsborough Law Now’, organised by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotherham. Furthermore, Margaret Aspinall, whose son James was killed in the disaster, said the current law is for ‘the perpetrators, not the victims’.

The 97 people killed at the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989

Ninety-seven people died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster, a crush which occurred in the standing-only central pens in the Leppings Lane stand of Hillsborough Stadium, allocated solely to Liverpool supporters. The disaster occurred during the FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield, on the 15th of April 1989. In the thirty-three years since, families and survivors have led a campaign to delve further into how, and why, they died. It is hoped that the proposed law would help those bereaved in disaster situations involving public bodies, for instance, the Grenfell Tower disaster in June 2017 and the Manchester Arena Attack in May 2017. Bereaved families from both tragedies also spoke at the event to support changes to the legal system.

The proposed law stems from a review of the experiences of the Hillsborough families conducted in 2017 be the Right Reverend James Jones (former Bishop of Liverpool). According to ITN, the law would bring in measures including:

A Public Advocate to act for families of the deceased after major incidents.

Giving bereaved families better access to money for legal representation at inquests: the measure would allow families, who often find themselves facing expensive QCs, to find lawyers themselves – creating an equal playing field.

Put in place a duty of candour for all police officers and public officials, which means they must be open and honest when something goes wrong.

A Charter for families bereaved through public tragedy which would be binding on all public bodies.

A requirement that evidence and findings of major inquests must be taken fully into account at any subsequent criminal trials.

Clarification in law that major inquiries commissioned by Governmental or other official bodies constitute “courses of public justice”.

A requirement that any criminal trials follow a major inquest take place in a court with relevant expertise and status, rather than a crown court.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper MP, released a statement after the event, stating that the party had tabled an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. She said that the party unequivocally stands ‘with the Hillsborough families and has repeatedly called for a Hillsborough law to be introduced without delay’.

A government spokeswoman told the BBC that the Home Office had been working with ‘the relevant government departments and organisations to carefully consider the points of learning made by Bishop James Jones’.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s