Hillsborough Families Let Down Again

6 December 2023

Hillsborough Law Government response

After a significant delay, described as ‘too long’ by the Justice Minister Alex Chalk, the UK Government has published its response to a report written six years ago into the 27-year process leading to justice faced by the bereaved families of the Hillsborough tragedy.

The report, written by the then Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones, made 25 recommendations for future inquests involving public bodies, including equal funding given to bereaved families compared to the state and the introduction of a duty of candour for all public officials – outlined in ‘Hillsborough Law’ drafted by GCN’s Pete Weatherby KC.

Pete and fellow GCN Silk Anna Morris KC gave evidence earlier this year to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights about this topic.

Despite Hillsborough families calling for Hillsborough Law to be implemented in its entirety, the government has declined to do so, extending the duty of candour only to the Police. The government response states that: ‘Chief Officers will be held to account for their forces’ performance against the [Code of Practice for
ethical policing]’.

The response later explains the government’s rationale for not extending the duty of candour to all public officials: ‘It is our view that the duties and obligations that have been created since the Hillsborough disaster, combined with actions set out in this response – including signing the Hillsborough Charter, consulting on the expansion of legal aid, and placing a statutory duty of candour on the police – broadly achieves the aims and upholds the principles of what has come to be known as the “Hillsborough Law”‘.

The response outlines that the government has signed a “Hillsborough charter”, which Mr Chalk explained ‘commits signatories — the leaders of public bodies — to strive to place the public interest above the reputation of their own organisations; to approach all forms of public scrutiny, including public inquiries and inquests, with candour in an open, honest and transparent way; and to avoid seeking to defend the indefensible’.

Pete Weatherby KC said: ‘The government response is completely cynical and inadequate adding no new duties on public servants or powers to prevent cover-ups. It pretends to address massive and ongoing problems of lack of candour, whilst doing the opposite. The Labour Party has promised to enact Hillsborough Law if elected, supported by almost all the other parties. The families will continue to fight to ensure that promise is kept.’

Read Right Reverend James Jones’ report ‘The patronising disposition of unaccountable power’ A report to  ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated.

Read the government’s response A Hillsborough Legacy: the Government’s response to Bishop James Jones’  report to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is never repeated.

Media coverage of the Government response can be found below:

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