No 10 finally to respond to 2017 report on Hillsborough injustices

<span>Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA</span>
Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Relatives of the 97 people killed at Hillsborough in 1989 will discover today how the government intends to respond to recommendations for widespread reform made in an official report six years ago into their experiences.

The report by James Jones, the former bishop of Liverpool, was commissioned by the then home secretary, Theresa May, in 2016 after a new inquest determined that the 97 people who died at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest had been unlawfully killed.

The jury found that the deaths in a crush on the Leppings Lane terrace were caused by gross negligence manslaughter by the South Yorkshire police officer in command of the match, Ch Supt David Duckenfield.

Evidence given by the force and individual officers for decades after the disaster that Liverpool supporters had misbehaved at Hillsborough was rejected by the jury, who determined that no behaviour of supporters contributed to the disaster. The verdicts were the culmination of a 25-year campaign by the families against the police lies and the 1991 inquest verdict of accidental death.

In his report, Jones produced 25 “points of learning” principally aimed at preventing cover-ups by police and public authorities and ensuring better conduct towards bereaved people, “to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated”.

The delay to the government’s response since the report was published in 2017 has become a further source of frustration and distress to families, who have called for a “Hillsborough law” to be the legacy of their campaign for justice. The proposed law, drafted by Pete Weatherby KC, who represented 22 families at the 2014-16 inquests, would introduce a legally enforced “duty of candour”, requiring police and public authorities to openly and fully assist inquiries and court proceedings after a major incident.

The draft law’s other key proposal is for bereaved people to have equal public funding for legal representation at inquests and public inquiries into a major incident as the funding available to police, public authorities and companies involved.

Last month the government proposed a “duty of candour” be introduced into the code of practice for police chief constables, which would require them to ensure that their officers act “in an open and transparent way”.

Hillsborough family members have criticised that as insufficient, because it applies only to police, lacks detail, and does not appear to have the legal force of the proposed Hillsborough law.

Steve Kelly, whose brother Mike, 38, was one of the 97 people killed at Hillsborough, said: “We’re committed to Hillsborough law, so that families will not have to suffer and fight for the truth for decades as we did, and other people can gain strength from our fight. If after six years the government’s response to Bishop James’s report falls short of Hillsborough law, I won’t accept it.”

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, told the Liverpool Echo in September that he was committed to introducing the Hillsborough law if his party won the next election.