North West politicians call for 'insensitive' Hillsborough pathology review to be suspended

Hillsborough memorial at Anfield. Credit: PA

North West politicians are calling for the suspension of a Home Office review into the pathology at the original Hillsborough inquests, after it emerged the victims' families had not been consulted.

On Wednesday, 5 October, the Government said it had established an independent review to consider what went wrong with the original pathology report into the deaths at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, and ensure similar mistakes were not made in the future.

Ninety-seven football fans died in the crush at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989.

But the announcement sparked anger when it emerged families of those who died had not been told of the review, which the Home Office said was started in July.

Andy Burnham with Hillsborough Support chair Margaret Aspinall and Steve Rotheram. Credit: PA Images

Metro mayor of Liverpool Steve Rotheram, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and the region's MPs called for the review to be suspended so a proper consultation could take place.

In a statement, they said: "The 'families first' approach established in the aftermath of the 2009 Hillsborough Independent Panel - and the longest coronial inquest in British legal history that followed - was set with one purpose: to ensure the experiences and treatment of families bereaved through the Hillsborough disaster would never again be repeated.

"Even after three decades of torment and injustice at the hands of the establishment, the families took that assurance forward in good faith.

"That is why it feels so incredibly thoughtless, tactless and insensitive for the Home Office to announce a review into the failures of pathology at the original Hillsborough inquests without consulting the families and loved ones of the 97 first.

"It beggars the question, who in Government is choosing to run roughshod over this principle - and why?"

The Home Office has been criticised by politicians. Credit: PA

The politicians said the Government was yet to fully respond to Bishop James Jones's 2017 report The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power, which made 25 recommendations including a review of the original pathology.

The statement said: "While justice has never been served for those who lost loved ones in that tragedy, we will not stand by and allow the establishment to conduct investigations without any recourse to the feelings of family members.

"We are therefore calling for a suspension of the proposed pathology review until proper consultation has taken place with the Hillsborough families and their consent is secured."

The Hillsborough memorial at Anfield. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Original inquests, which were quashed by the High Court in 2012, heard no evidence from after 3.15pm on the day of the disaster.

The decision was based on pathology evidence that all the victims suffered the injuries which caused their deaths before that time.

However, the Hillsborough Independent Panel found the evidence was flawed and it was highly likely what happened after 3.15pm - the time when the first ambulance arrived on the pitch - was significant in determining whether the victims could have survived.

In 2016, a jury at new inquests found the Hillsborough victims were unlawfully killed.

Match commander David Duckenfield was cleared of gross negligence manslaughter in 2019, and a trial of two retired police officers and a former force solicitor, who were accused of perverting the course of justice, collapsed last year after a judge ruled there was no case to answer.

In his report, Bishop Jones also recommended the Government give full consideration to a Hillsborough Law, which would include a duty of candour for police officers.

At its party conference last week, Labour pledged to bring in the Hillsborough Law if elected.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We apologise to the families that they were not told in advance about the announcement of this review. This review is one of the recommendations of the Bishop James Jones report.

"We are committed to responding to the Bishop's report as soon as practicable, and will engage with the families during the process."

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