Justice Secretary in ‘review law’ pledge to Hillsborough families

Robert Buckland paid tribute to the ‘immense courage, determination and patience’ of relatives of the 96 victims of the 1989 tragedy.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland

The Government will “always consider opportunities to review the law and how it operates” following the collapse of trials relating to the Hillsborough disaster, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has said.

Mr Buckland also paid tribute to the “immense courage, determination and patience” of the families of the 96 victims of the 1989 tragedy, as he answered an urgent question on the issue in the House of Commons.

The trial of two retired police officers and a solicitor accused of perverting the course of justice following the disaster collapsed last month after the judge ruled there was no case to answer.

Responding to the urgent question from Labour’s Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood), Mr Buckland said: “We recognise the need for those in public office to act responsibly and to discharge their duties with both honesty and integrity.

“And as we continue to consider the judgment in the latest Hillsborough trial and its implications, we will of course always consider opportunities to review the law and how it operates.

“I want families to know that this will be no exception. We are carefully considering the points made by the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones in his 2017 report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families, including in relation to the proposed duty of candour, and our focus now after this trial’s conclusion will be on publishing the Government’s overarching response to the report after having further consulted with all the families.”

Mr Buckland added that “the Government continues to be committed to engaging with the survivors and the bereaved families” and said it was “critical” that lessons were learned from Hillsborough.

Flowers and tributes left at the Hillsborough Memorial outside Anfield stadium, Liverpool, following the collapse of the trial in May
Flowers and tributes left at the Hillsborough Memorial outside Liverpool’s Anfield stadium following the collapse of the latest trial in May (Peter Byrne/PA)

He reiterated the apology made by former prime minister David Cameron and also paid tribute to the “immense courage, determination and patience of the families of the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster and those injured who, 32 years on, continue to grieve about the events of that truly terrible day”.

Conservative former prime minister Theresa May also urged Mr Buckland to “act swiftly” on the independent public advocate, adding: “I think the independence of that public advocate is incredibly important. The Lord Chancellor wants to get it right, but please get it right quickly.”

As Mrs May rose to speak on Thursday, she called the collapse of the trial “the final blow to the Hillsborough families in their desperate search over so many years for justice”.

Mr Buckland also called on “all arms of the state to act in a way that is responsible, open, accountable and honest”.

Responding to a question from Conservative Bob Blackman (Harrow East) on legal support available for the Hillsborough families, Mr Buckland said: “I think the families would say they were shut out from day one.”

He added: “What we are left with is the aftermath and the work that the Government has been doing … is designed to try and create a higher degree of accountability and involvement.

“I will emphasise something that I haven’t yet properly emphasised – the justice system cannot do this alone, it’s only as good as the product of the evidence and information and intelligence that it receives and that requires all arms of the state to act in a way that is responsible, open, accountable and honest.”

Ninety-six football fans were fatally injured in a deadly crush as Liverpool played Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground on April 15 1989.

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