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'Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy': Bishop's Hillsborough report prompts apology from police chiefs

by Sophie Drew

A report by a former bishop of Liverpool has prompted a “profound apology” from police forces involved in the Hillsborough disaster.

Published in 2017, the report hoped to ensure families never again have to experience the plight of those that lost loved ones as a result of the incident at the Sheffield stadium.

The report opens with a letter to the prime minister and the home secretary, before listing the names and ages of the 96 people killed.

Over 117-pages, Rt Rev James Jones condemned the “culture” of the force and calls for significant improvements to the “attitude” of public bodies.

Now, police chiefs have promised “cultural change” across all 43 forces.

The National Police Chief Constable Council (NPCC) has commissioned a new report into the lessons police forces have learned from the failures surrounding the Hillsborough case, and how officers can better work with families experiencing such immense tragedy.

In 2016, police match commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield was found to have committed gross negligence manslaughter. The inquiry deemed the 96 people to have been killed unlawfully.

Last year, South Yorkshire and West Midlands police forces acknowledged a cover-up and agreed to pay damages to more than 600 people. 

At the launch of the new report, Andy Marsh, the chief executive of the College of Policing, said: “Policing has profoundly failed those bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster over many years and we are sorry that 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.

“When leadership was most needed, the bereaved were often treated insensitively and the response lacked coordination and oversight.”

He continued: “The changes include all police forces in England and Wales signing up to a charter agreeing to acknowledge when mistakes have been made and not seek to defend the indefensible; a strengthened ethical policy which makes candour a key theme, and new guidance for specialist officers supporting families during a tragedy, which learnt lessons from the Hillsborough Families Report, the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the 2017 terrorist attacks.”


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