Theresa May backed by Hillsborough inquiry bishop as former PM renews call for justice for 'the 96'

The former bishop who headed the independent inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster has today given her backing to former premier Theresa May as she presses the Government to revisit the law surrounding public inquiries.

Flowers and tributes left at the Hillsborough Memorial outside Anfield stadium, Liverpool, following the collapse of the Hillsborough trial. Picture date: Wednesday May 26, 2021

Mrs May, who instigated the inquiry when Home Secretary, is the latest high-profile figure to speak out after the final trial into the 1989 tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool football fans lost their lives, collapsed.

She continued to take a close interest in the case, and fight for justice for the families of victims, after becoming Prime Minister five years ago.

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Now Bishop James Jones, whose landmark hearing paved the way for a new inquest which returned a verdict of unlawful killing and subsequent criminal trials, has welcomed Mrs May’s intervention at Prime Minister’s Questions.

“I welcome the former Prime Minister’s question,” said Bishop James who lives near Malton. “She commissioned me to write a report on how we could learn lessons from the experience of the Hillsborough Families so that ‘their perspective is not lost’.

“I am currently in discussions with the Government on its response to the points of learning in that report called ‘The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power’.”

Mrs May was heard in respectful silence as she asked her successor Boris Johnson to “urgently look at” the Hillsborough ruling’s ramifications for future public inquiries.

This was retired South Yorkshire Police officers Donald Denton, 83, and Alan Foster, 74, and the force’s former solicitor Peter Metcalf, 71, all acquitted.

The three men were each accused of two counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.

It was alleged they were involved in a process of amending officers’ statements to minimise the blame on South Yorkshire Police following the disaster.

However Judge Mr Justice William Davis said the amended statements were intended for a public inquiry into safety at sports grounds led by Lord Justice Taylor shortly after the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground, but that was not a course of public justice.

To the consternation of campaigners, the only criminal conviction in a long-running series of trials into the disaster has been against Graham Mackrell, then secretary of Sheffield Wednesday, who was found guilty of a single safety offence, and fined £6,500.

Mrs May told the Commons: “The most recent trial collapsed because although it was accepted that police evidence had been altered, because it was evidence to a public inquiry it did not constitute perversion in the course of justice.

“Will [the Prime Minister] urgently look at the ramifications of this judgment for current and future public inquiries and ensure that in future people are given the justice that has been so crudely denied to the families of the Hillsborough 96?”

Responding, Mr Johnson said: “Of course the families of the 96 who died in the Hillsborough disaster and those who were injured have shown tremendous courage and determination.

“[Mrs May] raises a particular issue about the recent court case and asks for a review of the law and I can give her the assurance that we will always consider opportunities to review the law and how it operates if necessary and we will certainly be looking at the case she describes.”