Hillsborough – Wirral MPs call for law reforms to support disaster families

Wirral MPs Margaret Greenwood and Mick Whitley have taken part in a parliamentary debate on the criminal justice system and how it could better support families bereaved by public disasters like Hillsborough. 

The debate was secured by Maria Eagle, the MP for Garston and Halewood, who is a long-time campaigner for the Hillsborough families.  

Ms Eagle’s Public Advocate Bill, which would establish a public advocate to provide advice to, and act as data controller for, representatives of the deceased after major incidents, is set for its second reading in Parliament on 22 October.   

There have also been calls for a duty of candour in law for public officials. James Jones, who was the Bishop of Liverpool between 1998 and 2013, in his report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families, called for a statutory “duty of candour which addresses the unacceptable behaviour of police officers – serving or retired – who fail to cooperate fully with investigations into alleged criminal offences or misconduct.” 

Earlier this year, the government indicated that it was considering this. 

Other Merseyside MPs taking part in the debate were Peter Dowd (Bootle), Paula Barker (Liverpool, Wavertree), Ian Byrne (Liverpool, West Derby), Sir George Howarth (Knowsley), Dan Carden (Liverpool, Walton) and Kim Johnson (Liverpool, Riverside). Also speaking on the issue was former Prime Minister Theresa May. 

Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood, the MP for Wirral West, said, “In 2016, an inquest jury ruled that those who tragically lost their lives at Hillsborough were unlawfully killed, yet no successful criminal charges have been brought against any individual.  

“That is a massive failing of the criminal justice system. 

“The collapse earlier this year of the trial of two retired police officers and a solicitor who were accused of perverting the course of justice was absolutely devastating for families and campaigners.  

“I fully support the Public Advocate Bill and I hope that the government listened closely to the debate and will support the proposed legislation.

“No families bereaved by public disasters should have to go through what the families who lost loved ones at Hillsborough have had to endure.” 

Mick Whitley, the MP for Birkenhead, said, “More than 30 years after the tragedy, the campaign for truth and justice continues. 

“The families of the 97 have endured things most of us could barely begin to imagine. The pain and grief of losing loved ones who simply went to watch a football match, but never came back is heart breaking. 

“For far too long, grieving families have been forced to navigate complex legal bureaucracies alone, without the resources, connections and access to expertise that the wealthiest in our society take for granted.  

“The right to a public advocate has broad cross-party support and was even included as a proposal in the 2017 Queen’s Speech, but more than four years later, the people whose lives were torn apart by the Hillsborough disaster are still waiting, as are the victims of subsequent disasters such as the Grenfell fire. 

“I applaud the efforts of Maria Eagle MP to enshrine the right to a public advocate in law, and I look forward to supporting its Second Reading in Parliament next month.” 

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