Hillsborough disaster report calls for changes to help bereaved families

A report on the experiences of the Hillsborough disaster families has called for 25 changes to be made to help the bereaved in the future.

A report on the experiences of families of the Hillsborough disaster has been released today

lThe review of the families' experiences called for cultural change in public authorities to stop the 'burning injustice' in the way bereaved relatives are treated following a tragedy.

Carried out by Bishop James Jones and published by the Home Office today, the review was commissioned following inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool FC fans at Hillsborough football stadium, Sheffield, in 1989.

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Fans were crushed on the terraces during an FA Cup semi-final when too many supporters were allowed into the ground.

Inquests ruled that fans were unlawfully killed and errors by the police and ambulance service caused or contributed to their deaths.

In his report, Bishop Jones said: "What is needed is a change in attitude, culture, heart and mind.

"To bring this about, I first ask that those in positions of leadership listen seriously to the experiences of the Hillsborough families described in this report."

He listed 25 changes to help others affected by future tragedies, including the establishment of a charter for families bereaved by public tragedy, publicly-funded legal representation for families at inquests where public bodies are represented, and a 'duty of candour' for police officers.

The Bishop also supported the introduction of a 'Hillsborough Law', which has been called for by families and would make it a criminal offence for public officials to cover up wrongdoing within an organisation.

In the report, he said: "I suggest that the way in which families bereaved through public tragedy are treated by those in authority is in itself a burning injustice which must be addressed."

He added: "The experience of the Hillsborough families demonstrates the need for a substantial change in the culture of public bodies."

Bishop Jones proposed that public bodies sign up to a Charter for Families Bereaved Through Public Tragedy to commit to placing the public interest above their own reputation and to approach public inquiries and inquests in an 'open, honest and transparent way'.

He called for a 'duty of candour' which would require police officers, serving or retired, to cooperate fully with investigations undertaken.

And he called for publicly-funded legal representation for families at inquests where public bodies are represented, as well as an end to public bodies 'spending limitless sums' on representation.

The Bishop said the response of South Yorkshire Police to criticism over Hillsborough had included examples of 'institutional defensiveness' and recommended College of Policing training for senior police officers to ensure an 'open and transparent approach' to inquiries and independent investigations in the future.

In the report, Bishop Jones said: "The bravery and tenacity of the Hillsborough families has been exceptional; it is clear that without their determination and endurance there would never have been any redress for their 96 loved ones.

"But the fact that this level of resolve and persistence was necessary demonstrates a systemic failure of the processes that should work to bring about accountability and justice."