Liverpool and Manchester city region mayors Rotheram and Burnham urge MPs to back Hillsborough Law

Mayors Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham with bereaved campaigners and Maria Eagle MP

Demands are growing on the government to introduce a Hillsborough Law to "rebalance the justice system".

Campaigners called for a duty of candour to be introduced in law following the inquests into the disaster, which found that those who died were unlawfully killed and errors by the police and ambulance service caused or contributed to their deaths.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, and Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, have written a joint letter to all 650 MPs urging them to give their backing to the idea.

97 men, women, and children were fatally injured in a deadly crush as Liverpool played Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground on 15 April 1989.

Nobody has been held accountable for their unlawful deaths.

The proposed changes to the law include forcing public authorities like the police to be proactively honest if anything went wrong while also providing ordinary people with a legal body, funded by the taxpayer, to fight for their cause in court.

The long campaign for Liverpool fans after Hillsborough

In the letter, the mayors ask MPs to make a personal commitment to the principle of a comprehensive Hillsborough Law and to call on the government to commit to introducing it in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

It draws parallels between Hillsborough and recent events such as the Manchester Arena attack and Grenfell.

They write: "The reason why this pattern keeps on repeating is simple: the scales of justice are weighed against ordinary families and in favour of public authorities who hold all the power.

"Levelling up must be about more than just large-scale infrastructure projects. It should be about levelling up those scales of justice so that the truth is established at the first opportunity, allowing justice and accountability to follow.

"It is about sparing grieving families the secondary trauma that is so often caused by cruel treatment at the hands of the legal system."

Liverpool fans rush to help fellow supporters at Hillsborough stadium in 1989

It comes just days ahead of the 33rd anniversary of the disaster.

In January, bereaved families joined, high-profile figures and politicians from across the political divide to call for a major re-balancing of the justice system to prevent others going through what the Hillsborough families have gone through.

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

In 2017, the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones delivered his verdict on the experience of the Hillsborough families at the hands of the British legal system.

The government is still formally to respond but has said it will "always consider opportunities to review the law and how it operates."

Bishop James Jones

The Bishop's report, The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power, contains 25 recommendations for reform, including:

  • A charter for families bereaved through public tragedy that should be binding on all public bodies.

  • A statutory duty of candour on all police officers – and other identified public servants - applied during all forms of public inquiry and criminal investigation.

  • Proper participation of bereaved families at inquests, through publicly-funded legal representation and an end to limitless legal spending by public bodies, which could extend to parity of legal funding to level the playing field in courtrooms.

  • A Public Advocate to act for bereaved families in the aftermath of major incidents.

The mayors argue that new issues which have arisen from the criminal trials related to Hillsborough should also be included in a new law:

  • A requirement that the 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 the 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.

The only person to be convicted in relation to the tragedy is former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, who was fined £6,500 and ordered to pay £5,000 costs after he was found guilty of failing to ensure the health and safety of fans arriving at the ground.

Former Ch Supt David Duckenfield

The police match commander on the day, David Duckenfield, was charged with gross negligence manslaughter in 2017. He was cleared in 2019 at a retrial, after the jury in his first trial was unable to reach a verdict.

In May 2021, former chief superintendent Donald Denton, retired detective chief inspector Alan Foster and former police solicitor Peter Metcalf were cleared of perverting the course of justice after a judge ruled there was no case to answer.

> Name of 97th Hillsborough victim Andrew Devine added to handmade quilt at Museum of Liverpool

> Lord Pickles apologises to Grenfell families after confusing death toll with Hillsborough disaster

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that an all-party Parliamentary group on a Hillsborough Law is to be reformed.

Elkan Abrahamson, a leading solicitor in the Hillsborough campaign, added that an action group is also being set up and that Police and Crime Commissioners will also be lobbied.

Merseyside's PCC has already joined seven others across the country in calling for the change in legislation.

Earlier this evening, Liverpool FC unveiled a mosaic on the Kop stand at Anfield with a minute's silence ahead of the Reds' quarter final second leg against Benfica in the Champions League.

The matchday programme commemorated the anniversary remembering those who lost their lives, while players wore black armbands as a mark of respect.

Flags will be flown at half mast from civic buildings across Liverpool on Friday.

Bells at the Town Hall will toll 97 times at 3.06pm, the time the 1989 game was stopped, to remember those who lost their lives.

Liverpool fan Andrew Devine, 55, died in July 2021 as a result of injuries sustained at Hillsborough.

A coroner ruled he was the 97th person to be unlawfully killed in the disaster.