An apology from senior police officers yesterday over the 1989 Hillsborough disaster was slammed as “too little too late”.
Finally responding to a 2017 report – which made 25 recommendations including a Public Authority Accountability Bill, or Hillsborough Law – they promised a “cultural change” and admitted that “policing got it badly wrong”.
But survivors and relatives of the 97 who died reacted with anger.
Louise Brookes, whose brother Andrew, 26, was killed, said: “The time when they needed to apologise was 34 years ago when they lied about my brother and the other 96 victims. It is too little too late.”
Peter Scarfe, of the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance, added: “People are extremely angry that it has taken so long.” And backing a Hillsborough Law, forcing officials to co-operate with inquiries, he said: “It is easy saying ‘We have learnt from it, we’ll make sure accountability is there, we can’t cover things up’, but without a law, they can.”
In 2016, an inquest jury ruled the fans who died in the crush at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were unlawfully killed. The 2017 report by former bishop of Liverpool the Rt Rev James Jones, called The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power, examined the experiences of families.
Responding to it yesterday, Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the College of Policing’s chief executive, said: “For what happened, as a senior policing leader, I profoundly apologise. Policing got it badly wrong.”
Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “I want to make an apology on behalf of the leadership.
“Our number one job as police officers is to keep people safe and at Hillsborough we failed to do that.”
It was revealed yesterday that the code of ethics police use will be reviewed, with a duty of candour made a key theme. Mr Marsh said: “What we’re talking about is cultural change and cultural change takes a long time. But, my goodness, we have started.”
Forces in England and Wales have also signed up to a Charter for Families Bereaved Through Public Tragedy, which says police must acknowledge any mistakes.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the response’s timing was hit by the need to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings and the Government will respond “as soon as practicable.”
But Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who backed calls for a Hillsborough Law, said the Government’s failure to respond yet was “disrespectful to the families”.
Criminal proceedings relating to the disaster wrapped up in 2021 when a judge ruled there was no case to answer against two former senior police officers and a solicitor accused of perverting justice.