1 November 2017

‘The patronising disposition of unaccountable power: A report to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated’ has been published today. The author, Reverend James Jones, a former Bishop of Liverpool and chair of the Hillsborough Independent Panel makes a number of strong recommendations on the response of public bodies to state related deaths, and the involvement of bereaved families in these processes.

This seminal report is the second this week, after Dame Elish Angiolini’s review on deaths in police custody, to make significant recommendations on post death investigations and family support. The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower has highlighted serious questions about state and corporate accountability, making the implementation of recommendations in this review yet more urgent.

INQUEST made a submission to the review and organised a family listening day where families discussed their experiences following deaths of relatives in contact with the police, in prisons and in mental health and learning disability settings. Many of the concerns raised by INQUEST and the families we work with are reflected in its recommendations.

The report makes 25 recommendations including:

  • A ‘Charter for Families Bereaved through Public Tragedy’ in which public bodies would commit to placing the public interest above their reputation and approach forms of public scrutiny such as inquiries and inquests with candour.
     
  • ‘Proper participation’ of bereaved families at inquests, including non-means tested, publicly-funded legal representation for bereaved families at inquests at which public bodies are represented; the cost of which would be borne by the government departments whose agencies are frequently represented at inquests.
     
  • Proportionate legal funding of public bodies meaning public bodies are not able to use public money to fund legal representation more advantageous than that which is available to families.
     
  • Cultural change at inquests which would ensure the process is not adversarial, but inquisitorial as intended, upheld by relevant Secretaries of State who should make clear how public bodies should approach inquests.
     
  • Bereaved families put at the heart of inquests, through training of coroners that includes bereaved families, and renewed guidance from the Chief Coroner.

The Hillsborough family lawyers* welcomed the Bishop’s review and called for ‘Hillsborough law’ to be brought through parliament, saying: “The law will criminalise coverups and should be brought into effect urgently and before The Grenfell Inquiry.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“This report is a damning indictment of the struggles of bereaved people for truth and accountability against an institutional culture of delay, denial and defensivenesss. We are delighted that the Bishop has endorsed many recommendations that INQUEST and the families we work with made to this review. This is the second report this week (after Dame Elish Angiolini’s review on deaths in police custody), to make important recommendations on inquest funding, duty of candour and family support.

It is vital the Government acts on these recommendations to support recently bereaved families, not least those affected by the Grenfell fire. The legacy of Hillsborough should be improvements across the inquest system to benefit families who are still coming up against many of the same hurdles that the Hillsborough families battled against. At the crux of this issue is the democratic accountability of public authorities at an individual and corporate level. The Government must urgently enact these key recommendations. A defining step would be the implementation of ‘Hillsborough Law’.”

ENDS
 

NOTES TO EDITORS

For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected]

  • Hillsborough Law (Formally titled 'The Public Authorities Accountability Bill'): The bill had its first reading in the Commons on 29 March 2017. It was supported by MP's of all sides but failed to reach a second reading as Parliament was dissolved. It criminalises cover-ups by making it an offence for public servants and others acting in a public capacity to mislead or refuse to co-operate with Inquiries, Inquests, Court proceedings etc. It also seeks to achieve parity of funding at Inquests between public bodies and bereaved families. Full details at: www.thehillsboroughlaw.com 
     
  • See the Family listening day report, from the meeting of bereaved families and Bishop James Jones in March 2017.
     
  • See the INQUEST submission to the review in full.
     
  • The review in full can be found here
     
  • The Angiolini Review: On Monday (30 October), another review also called for changes to post-death investigation processes. The independent review of deaths and serious incidents in custody by Dame Elish Angiolini, is blueprint for change to urgently implement in the face of numerous recent concerning deaths following police contact. The recommendations around the coronial system, family support in particular are also reflected more broadly in the Hillsborough review.