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AAL Insight: The Hillsborough Law 03/04/2017

Following the final revelations about the cover-up and mass misleading of the public in the wake of the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989, a new law is to be presented to Parliament to offer more transparency in the public sector.

Andy Burnham, the Liverpudlian MP who was instrumental in revealing the scale of the Hillsborough cover-up, will present the public authority (accountability) bill to Parliament on Wednesday.

The bill will demand that the authorities and their employees act with “transparency, candour and frankness” in all matters, and offenders would then be subject to a hefty fine or even a two-year maximum prison sentence if their actions were found to be misleading.

Burnham’s bill is designed to stop anything like the 27-year cover-up by South Yorkshire Police in regards to the Hillsborough verdict, from ever happening again. Last year, a second inquest found that the 96 people who died that day were unlawfully killed, exonerating the unwavering conviction that the families and city had in their people.

Another part of the bill suggests that if a family has a relative killed or maimed whilst they are in the care of a public authority such as the police, that the family should be given equal funding for legal representation as the authority themselves, to prevent top-notch lawyers getting the public services out of hot water, ultimately stopping them from buying the best people for the job with taxpayer’s earnings.

This comes from the fact that the families of the 96 who died that day at Hillsborough had to fund their legal challenges from their own pockets, whilst South Yorkshire police and it’s individual officers, as well as the ambulance service and Sheffield City Council, were all funded in their legal representation with public money.   

Margaret Aspinall was the chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group. Her son James, who was 18 at the time, was one of those who died in 1989, and speaking to the Guardian, she said that “We do not want any other families to suffer as we have.”

“The police and public bodies must have a duty to tell the truth from the start and bereaved families must have equal funding for lawyers to represent them.”

The best chance of adoption by Theresa May’s government comes with the official report being compiled on how best to learn the lessons of the Hillsborough tragedy and subsequent scandal. Sir James Jones, who used to be the Bishop of Liverpool, is working on this report for May.

If he recommends that the bill come into force, that would be a huge advantage for Burnham and all the bill’s proponents, as it would lend it significant vocal backing that May simply could not ignore.

Burnham is also expected to speak to Parliament when he presents the bill, and many feel that he will raise grievances with the fact that there has not already been broader legal reform in light of the aftermath of the tragedy.

He will argue that the bill will provide important support for the families who lose loved ones in situations which should be in the control of the authorities, as well as holding those people who would use their position for their own ends, up to account.

“The bill fundamentally rebalances the legal and coronial system in favour of ordinary people. Until that happens, then the true lesson of Hillsborough will not have been learned.”

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