Government concession on “Hillsborough law” slammed by Labour

Shadow Home Secretary and Leigh MP Andy Burnham. Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Shadow Home Secretary and Leigh MP Andy Burnham. Peter Byrne/PA Wire
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HILLSBOROUGH families need more commitment from the Government that police officers can be prosecuted after they have retired, Labour has claimed.

The Government said today it is seeking to change the law so that in “exceptional circumstances” police can be prosecuted or subject to disciplinary procedures beyond the current 12 month period.

However a spokesperson for Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham said: “We don’t think there should be any limit at all. There shouldn’t even be a 12 month limit. Not much will come to light just one year after at a significant level.”

The Government has tabled an amendment this morning to their Policing and Crime Bill which means that in certain circumstances officers can still face the consequences of actions they carried out while serving beyond 12 months after they retired.

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham has asked for there to be no time limit on police impunity, and also for a fairer playing field for families coping with significant legal fees as part of his demand for a “Hillsborough law”.

The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said: “We recognise the strength of feeling around that and making sure police officers are held to account no matter when [incidents] come to light.

“We have already proposed in this Bill to introduce new measures so that investigations and disciplinary proceedings could take place within 12 months after an officer’s departure.

“We will bring forward an amendment now to allow in exceptional circumstances for disciplinary procedures to be brought outside of that time frame.

“We had already proposed one step in light of the debate and dicussion following Hilssborough.

“We are going to go a step further and say in exceptional circumstances outside of the current 12 month period and that’s an amendment we are going to bring forwards in the Lords.”

Mr Burnham, who hopes to become Labour’s candidate in the Manchester mayoral election later this summer, has been pushing for an end to time limits on prosecutions since the conclusion of the Hillsborough inquests in April.

Ninety-six Liverpool football fans were found to have been unlawfully killed in a crush at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield in 1989 due to failures by South Yorkshire Police.

Despite the offer of an extension to prosecutions from the Government this morning, Conservative MPs will vote against a Labour amendment to the Bill today which asks for greater legal support for the families of victims.

The Government wants to wait until the conclusion of a report being carried out by Bishop of Liverpool James Jones.

The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said: “We’ve been clear that it is important to look at the lessons that we can learn from Hillsborough at the appalling experience of the families and their long search for justice.

“On the specific issue of the payments they receive in order to do their quest for justice, this is something we want to look at and the Home Secretary has asked Bishop Jones to compile a report on that.

“Our view is we should wait for his report before making further decisions but we support the spirit of the amendment.”

Mr Burnham said: “We must call time on the uneven playing field at inquests where public bodies spend public money like water on hiring the best lawyers when ordinary families have to scratch around for whatever they can get.”