Andy Burnham to call for ‘Hillsborough law’ to protect bereaved families
Labour’s Andy Burnham will today call for a “Hillsborough law” to ensure bereaved families receive equal legal funding to the police at future inquests.
The families of the 96 football fans who died in 1989 at the Hillsborough stadium had to raise money to pay for their lawyers representing them at inquests conducted in 1991.
South Yorkshire police, meanwhile, were represented by a top legal team. The families suffered through a 27-year struggle before a fresh inquest ruled in April the victims were “unlawfully killed”.
Mr Burnham, the Shadow Home Secretary, has tabled an amendment to the police and crime bill which would grant families in similar situations legal aid equal to the cost of police spending on lawyers.
In doing so it would ensure the tragedy is a “watershed moment” for justice in the UK, he said.
"The 27-year struggle of the Hillsborough families exposes how the odds are all too frequently stacked against ordinary families seeking truth and justice,” he said.
"Hillsborough must mark a moment of real change when Parliament rebalances the police and criminal justice system and puts more power in the hands of ordinary people.
"We must call time on the uneven playing field at inquests where public bodies spend public money like water on hiring the best lawyers when ordinary families have to scratch around for whatever they can get."
Mr Burnham will look to force a vote on the proposed law, while he will also repeat Labour’s call for the second stage of the Leveson inquiry to go ahead.
The first part looked in press ethics, but a further probe into ties between newspapers and the police has been put on hold.
“The Government made a clear commitment to victims of press intrusion and parliament cannot let them renege on it. We need a full and thorough consideration of the relationship between press and police as recommended by Lord Leveson,” he said.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, paid tributes the Hillsborough victims’ families earlier this year, saying: “They have faced hostility, opposition and obfuscation, and the authorities that should have been trusted have laid blame and tried to protect themselves instead of acting in the public interest. But the families have never faltered in their pursuit of the truth.”