This is a special Anfield Wrap podcast about the Hillsborough Law which was recommended in Bishop James Jones’s report into the lived experience of the Hillsborough families this week.

Please remember that these sorts of discussions can be troubling and that there remain ongoing criminal proceedings around Hillsborough.

The Hillsborough Law deals with the present day, compelling public facing bodies to show a duty of candour and ensuring there are equal resources available to the public.

Discussing it with Neil Atkinson are Steve Kelly, Sarah Nolan, Pete Weatherby and Elkan Abrahamson.

In 2018 we expect public authorities and individuals acting as public servants to be truthful and act with candour. Unfortunately, repeated examples have shown us that this is not generally the case. Instead of acting in the public interest by telling the truth, public authorities have tended to act according to narrow organisational and individual motives by trying to cover up faults and deny responsibility.

The behaviour of public authorities in the recent Hillsborough Inquests provide a stark example of institutional defensiveness and a culture of denial. Despite making fulsome apologies for their role in the disaster and cover-up in September 2012, both the South Yorkshire Police (SYP) and the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (SYMAS) took a very different approach in court two years later. Both organisations chose to add to the suffering of bereaved families and unnecessarily lengthen the Inquests by deflecting responsibility and failing to acknowledge their previously-admitted failures.

The Chief Constable of SYP was suspended because of the way in which he instructed his lawyers to run the SYP case– but it was already too late. The bereaved families had already been put through another two years of further distress, following the initial, shocking, 25 year cover-up.

The families of those who died in the Hillsborough Disaster have spent 27 years fighting not only for justice for their loved ones, but so that what happened to them can never happen again. The recent Hillsborough Inquests made it all too clear that not enough has changed when it comes to public institutions acting in the public interest. The terrible Grenfell disaster and its aftermath sadly provides a further illustration that this law is as relevant today as it was in 1989.

Of course it is not only Hillsborough families that have suffered as a result of this public culture. There are sadly many examples, such as those bereaved by the Birmingham Pub bombings who waited for years for a proper investigation into the death of their loved ones. It is past time to put that right.

The ‘Hillsborough Law’/ Public Authority Accountability Bill codifies the public law duty of public authorities and public servants to tell the truth and act with candour. It applies both generally and specifically to with respect to proceedings, inquiries and investigations.

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