ONLY a change in the culture of public bodies will put an end the “burning injustice” of the treatment of families bereaved by a tragedy, a report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families has found.
The review, by former Liverpool bishop James Jones, demands changes across the inquest system to ensure that the suffering faced by the Hillsborough families during their 27-year ordeal is not repeated in the case of another tragedy.
It comes after inquests into the 1989 disaster — in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at the FA Cup semi-final — returned verdicts of unlawful killings.
The inquest in April this year also found that errors by the police and ambulance service caused or contributed to their deaths.
Describing Hillsborough as a “lesson in official lies, corruption and cover-up,” the review looks at the way bereaved families are treated by those in authority.
The first of 25 recommendations in the report is that police and public bodies must sign up to a charter requiring them to help all public inquiries and inquests fully and not to mislead the public or the media.
The review also recommends that bereaved families should have full legal representation at inquests where public bodies are involved, noting that “the majority of family members of those who die in state-related deaths are of modest means.”
The families and their lawyers had argued for years that a lack of legal funding was a major factor preventing the legal system from uncovering the truth and meant that campaigners were forced to fight for decades to get justice.
Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, welcomed the review, saying: “I urge the government to read this report in full and learn from the experiences our poor families have gone through for so many years; nobody should have to go through that torture and struggle as we have.
“Implementing these reforms will mean that the Grenfell families and others will never have to go through what we did, and we hope they will get justice and accountability for the deaths of their loved ones.”
The Hillsborough family lawyers called for “Hillsborough law” to be brought through Parliament, saying: "The law will criminalise cover-ups and should be brought into effect urgently and before the Grenfell inquiry."
The Bill had its first reading in the Commons in March and has cross-party support.
The government said it will provide a full response to the recommendations made by the report in due course.