Police apologise to families of Hillsborough disaster almost 34 years on and promise ‘cultural change’
2 months ago
Police chiefs have promised a “cultural change” as they apologised to families of Hillsborough victims almost 34 years on from the disaster.
The pledge comes as a national police response to a report by the Rt Revd James Jones, former bishop of Liverpool, into the experiences of the Hillsborough families is published.
The 2017 paper, The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power, made 25 recommendations – with 11 of them directly concerning policing.
Ninety-seven football fans died as a result of a crush at a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15 1989.
They were unlawfully killed amid a number of police errors, an inquest jury ruled in 2016.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the College of Policing’s chief executive officer, said:
“For what happened, as a senior policing leader, I profoundly apologise. Policing got it badly wrong.”
Tuesday’s response from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and College of Policing said the code of ethics used by forces will be reviewed, with a duty of candour becoming a key theme.
Mr Marsh, who was born in Liverpool, said: “What we’re talking about is cultural change and cultural change takes a long time, but my goodness we have started.”
He said new recruits will study the report into the experiences of the Hillsborough families.
All forces in England and Wales have signed up to a Charter for Families Bereaved Through Public Tragedy, which says police organisations must acknowledge any mistakes.
In his report, Mr Jones urged the Government to give full consideration to a Hillsborough Law, including a duty of candour for police officers.
NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said legislation is a matter for Parliament.
He said: “What we have really focused on is doing that which is really within our power. The issue of candour is very clear within the charter for bereaved families and it will be incorporated explicitly in the review of the code of ethics.”
Mr Marsh added: “We have been robust as possible and it’s for Parliament to make any legislation that they feel is necessary.”
Mr Hewitt said the response to Mr Jones’s report was not published earlier due to legal processes.
He said: “It was really important to us to ensure that the report was a full response to all the points raised by the bishop and a really clear response to the families around what we have done, but I absolutely accept that every week or month that has gone by has added to the pain of the families and not being able the whole process to conclusion.”
The police response also says there will be a new code of practice on police information and records management to prevent the problems faced after the Hillsborough disaster, when records were lost or destroyed, and new guidance for family liaison officers.
Guidance on disaster victim identification has been revised, with officers told the terms “belonging to” or “property of” the coroner should not be used, the report said.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, Mr Jones said it is “intolerable” for the victims’ families that there has been no full Government response to his report.
He said: “This year it will be 34 years since the tragedy, and for them to wait for so long for a response to these 25 points of learning is intolerable and adds to their pain and, I think, in some instances even affects their own grieving.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said:
“The Hillsborough families have suffered unimaginable heartache for many years due to the profound failings of policing.
“Nothing and no-one can undo their suffering.
“But it is only right those failings are openly acknowledged, and that policing publicly commits to taking every possible action to make sure no other families are forced to endure the injustice they have experienced.
“Much has changed in policing in recent years and, as this report sets out, a huge amount of work has been undertaken to address the points of learning set out by Bishop James to ensure no other families are so badly let down.
“This report demonstrates that commitment from the very top ranks of policing and on behalf of all forces nationally and recognises that, as the Manchester Arena attack has demonstrated, there can be no room for complacency.
“As police leaders, we must strive to increase accountability and transparency within our justice system and enhance the support for victims of crime, especially those left bereft by public disasters, wherever possible.
“Care, compassion, openness, transparency and accountability are values which should be embedded in every layer of policing, criminal justice and government.
“That’s why I continue to support calls for the Government to bring forward a Hillsborough Law Now to rebalance the scales of justice and ensure these principles are enshrined throughout our system.”
Read the ‘National Police Response to the Hillsborough Families Report’