Hillsborough landmark report urges ‘cultural change of attitude’

Serving and retired police officers should be forced into a ‘duty of candour’ to cooperate fully with independent investigations to end the “burning injustice” faced by those hit by public tragedy, a landmark report demands today.

Nov 1, 2017

Serving and retired police officers should be forced into a ‘duty of candour’ to cooperate fully with independent investigations to end the “burning injustice” faced by those hit by public tragedy, a landmark report demands today. Public authorities need to adopt cultural change in the way bereaved relatives are treated following a tragedy, the Home Office review on the experiences of the Hillsborough families has found. The report by the former bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, was commissioned by Theresa May as Home Secretary following the inquests of 96 Liverpool FC fans at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final – which found they were unlawfully killed and errors by the police and ambulance service caused or contributed to their deaths. Bishop Jones urges action in 25 ‘points of learning’ to support those hit by the effects of tragedy and to ensure the pain and suffering of those affected by Hillsborough is never repeated. He wrote: “I suggest that the way in which families bereaved through public tragedy are treated by those in authority is in itself a burning injustice which must be addressed. “That is why the points of learning I have identified in this report are essential. “Not just to contribute to the process of justice for the 96 but so that the experience of the families and survivors of Hillsborough informs future much needed reform.” Entitled ‘The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power’, his document offers an extensive overview of the experiences of family members of the 96. He calls for the creation of a special charter that would see public bodies commit to acting transparently and in the public interest. The report recommends the establishment of a ‘duty of candour’ for officers which tackles the “unacceptable behaviour” of serving or retired officers who fail to cooperate fully with investigations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission or its successor body into alleged criminal offences or misconduct. It also argues that for a system of public funding for legal support for bereaved families and efforts to make sure public bodies do not benefit from an “inequality of arms” – the spending of “limitless sums” to support their arguments. In the report, he added: “What is needed is a change in attitude, culture, heart and mind. “To bring this about, I first ask that those in positions of leadership listen seriously to the experiences of the Hillsborough families described in this report. “It is because it is essential to look forward and not just backwards that the perspective of the families must not be lost.” The Bishop, who chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel, said the response of South Yorkshire Police to criticism over Hillsborough had included examples of “institutional defensiveness” and recommended College of Policing training for senior police officers to ensure an “open and transparent approach” to inquiries and independent investigations. The report found that the first inquests into the deaths, which had a cut-off time for evidence of 3.15pm on the day, failed to accurately establish how the 96 came about their deaths, and families were unable to successfully challenge the “flawed basis” on which the inquests took place because their legal representation was unfunded and inadequate. He also praises determination and strength of the Hillsborough victims’ families – adding his hope that their battle leads to changes that benefit the country. Urging that lessons to be learnt from their experiences – and acknowledging others have suffered similarly – he added: “The Hillsborough families are not the only ones who have suffered from ‘the patronising disposition of unaccountable power’. “The families know that there are others who have found that when in all innocence and with a good conscience they have asked questions of those in authority on behalf of those they love the institution has closed ranks, refused to disclose information, used public money to defend its interests and acted in a way that was both in

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