POLICE chiefs said sorry yesterday to the bereaved families of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster — but those affected said it was “34 years too late”.
Officers admitted “profound failures” and promised a “cultural change” to be more honest with victims of tragedies in the future.
4Margaret Aspinall, mother of victim James, 18, said: ‘It’s 2023. How long does it take to release a report?’4A shattered young Liverpool fan after the Hillsborough disasterCredit: PA:Press Association4Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: ‘We got it badly wrong. Police failures were main cause of the tragedy’Credit: GettyBut police and the Government were criticised for not going further and introducing a Hillsborough Law, which would protect families from injustice.
It would place a legal duty of honesty on public servants during all forms of public inquiry and criminal investigations.
In a significant statement yesterday, police admitted adding to the grief of the 97 victims’ families by failing to be open about police mistakes which led to the crowd crush at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh, of the College of Policing national training and policy body, admitted: “Policing has profoundly failed those bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster over many years and we are sorry the service got it so wrong.
“Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy and have continued to blight the lives of family members ever since.”
But Louise Brookes, whose brother Andrew was a victim of the disaster, said the response was “34 years too late”.
She added: “Until actions change at the top level, I don’t think anything will ever change.
“My main issue has always been the reason why some of these officers go to the lengths they do, to lie and cover up and to not ever be held accountable because they know they are protected by their forces, the Government, the establishment.
“So it’s not in their interests to actually tell the truth.”
Unearthed evidence revealed officers had attempted to minimise the blame placed on police by amending statements and attempting to change the record of events in briefings to the media.
A 2016 inquest ruled the victims were unlawfully killed amid a series of police errors when they were crushed at the Liverpool end of Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium.
A report by the Rt Rev James Jones, former bishop of Liverpool, into the experiences of the Hillsborough families was published in 2017 and made 25 recommendations, 11 of them involving policing.
He told the BBC it is “intolerable” for the victims’ families that there has still been no full government response to his report.
He said: “For them to wait so long for a response to these 25 points adds to the pain.”
Margaret Aspinall, whose son James was killed aged 18, said: “We are now into 2023. How long does it take to read a report and come out with your findings of what you think should happen?”
Peter Scarfe, chairman of the Hillsborough Survivors’ Support Alliance, said the wait has been “way too long” and police reforms should be put into law.
He added: “It’s easy saying, ‘We’ve learned from it, we’re going to correct our mistakes, we’ll make sure accountability is there, we can’t cover things up’ — but without a law they can.”
The national police response was finally published yesterday following protracted legal cases.
Cops announced all forces have signed up to a charter which ensures they acknowledge when mistakes are made and not to “seek to defend the indefensible”.
A code of practice is also being created for the retention of records after reports were lost and destroyed after Hillsborough.
4Liverpool fans hold up signs for the 97 victims of the Hillsborough disaster in 2022Credit: Reuters
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk