What is the proposed Hillsborough Law and why is it important?

Families and campaigners are joining together to renew calls for a Hillsborough Law to "break the cycle" of injustice for bereaved families.

They are calling for a change to the justice system to prevent others going through what the Hillsborough families experienced.

It follows the powerful ITV drama Anne, which documents the real life of the late Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams, whose 15-year-old son Kevin died in the disaster.

Ninety-seven men, women and children died as a result of a crush on the terraces at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield on April 15 1989.

It is hoped a Hillsborough Law could help bereaved families and survivors in other disaster situations involving public bodies, such as the Grenfell Tower inquiry, and the inquiries into the Manchester Arena attack and the Government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester and one of the main voices behind the law, says the law would be a major re-balancing of the justice system.

The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster - Andrew Devine became the 97th when he died in July 2021. Credit: PA Images

What is the Hillsborough Law?

The law came from a review of the experiences of the Hillsborough families by former Bishop of Liverpool the Right Reverend James Jones - ‘The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power’.

It was published in 2017 and detailed 25 recommendations to reform the system. It is those recommendations, and, what campaigners say are failures of criminal trials related to Hillsborough, which form the basis of the Hillsborough Law.

It would bring in a number of measures including:

  • A Public Advocate to act for families of the deceased after major incidents.

  • Giving bereaved families better access to money for legal representation at inquests -the measure would allow families, who often find themselves facing expensive QCs, to afford lawyers themselves - creating an equal playing field.

  • Put in place a duty of candour for all police officers and public officials which means they must be open and honest when something that goes wrong.

  • A Charter for families bereaved through public tragedy which would be binding on all public bodies.

  • A requirement that evidence and findings of major inquests must be taken fully into account at any subsequent criminal trials.

  • Clarification in law that major inquiries commissioned by government or other official bodies constitute “courses of public justice”.

  • A requirement that any criminal trials following a major inquest take place in a court with relevant expertise and status, rather than a crown court.

You can also listen to our 'From the North' podcast to learn more about Anne and her fight for justice.

From the North is a digital series from ITV News made in the North of England, focusing on the topics and issues people are talking about in our region.

Listen above, or download where ever you get your podcasts from.

Anne Williams, from Formby, spent decades fighting to prove how her 15 year old son Kevin died. She passed away in 2013 from cancer.

Why is it called the Hillsborough law?

The Hillsborough Disaster has become synonymous with "cover up" by public officials.

The original inquests, completed in 1991, ruled all the deaths accidental. Families rejected the findings, and fought to have the case re-opened.

In 1997, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith concluded that there was no justification for a new inquiry, but in 2009, a Hillsborough Independent Panel was formed which ultimately resulted in the previous inquest findings being quashed.

New inquests into the deaths at the Hillsborough disaster in 2016 concluded the victims were unlawfully killed.

Two criminal criminal investigations also followed the Independent Panel.

Sir Norman Bettison, a Chief Inspector in 1989 who went on to become Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire, was charged with misconduct in a public office as part of the investigation, but the charges against were dropped in August 2018.

Match commander David Duckenfield was also cleared of gross negligence manslaughter in 2019.

A trial of retired police officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster and former force solicitor Peter Metcalf, who were accused of perverting the course of justice, collapsed in 2021 after a judge ruled there was no case to answer.

The calls for the law have been backed by Liverpool Football Club.