Cameron pledges justice ahead of Hillsborough hearing
The disaster at Hillsborough was one of the greatest peacetime injustices of the last century. As I said in the House of Commons a year ago, it was a double injustice: the failure of the state to protect its citizens and the indefensible wait for the truth - compounded by a despicable and completely unfounded attempt to blame the victims.
The government supported the Bishop of Liverpool and his Independent Panel in getting to the truth. We were right to do so. It is hard to imagine quite how it must have felt for the families to learn that more could have been done to save some of their loved ones. And to see for the first time in black and white what they had known all along: that the Liverpool fans were never the cause of the disaster. The Bishop of Liverpool’s Report at last gave the families access to the truth. But it did more. It opened the way to justice – to new evidence, fresh investigations, new inquests and the possibility of the Crown Prosecution Service considering whether criminal charges should be brought.
The Home Secretary and I did everything possible to support the Bishop of Liverpool in his search for the truth – and we will stop at nothing now in supporting the families in their search for justice.
It is vital that we maintain the momentum of last year. So we have increased the resources available to both the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation and to Operation Resolve, the police-led investigation into what led to the tragedy. Today there are around 300 people working on these new investigations.
We have done more to help these investigations get the new information they need. So when we heard that serving police officers could avoid giving evidence we introduced emergency legislation to give the Independent Police Complaints Commission the power to require them to attend as witnesses.
And when the Independent Police Complaints Commission found they were initially unable to re-open a matter previously investigated by the Police Complaints Authority, again our emergency legislation made sure this could happen. These investigations are taking some time and I understand the frustration that many will feel. Hillsborough has had a history of inquiries – and the families have waited long enough. But the task is huge. The teams are going through more than 450,000 pages and new evidence is being uncovered that will be vital in the search for justice. New pocket notebooks that were not previously available were recently submitted by South Yorkshire Police. This evidence is needed if we are to have the final definitive version of exactly what happened and if all those responsible are to be held to account.
After my Statement in the House of Commons last year, the Attorney General successfully applied to the High Court to quash the existing coroner’s verdicts. The new inquests will take place in Warrington, not Sheffield - and will start next year. Normally new inquests would have to wait for police investigations and any subsequent prosecutions to conclude. But the Coroner has decided that the new inquests should not wait. He has set a final deadline of 31st March next year for the start of the new inquests and asked that the substance of the other investigations are completed by then.
I know that these new inquests and the conclusion of these investigations will be very painful for all the families affected. They are being asked to relive their suffering every day this goes on. I know too, that nothing can ever bring back those who have been lost. But I promise you this: just as we got the truth, so the families will get the justice they have been fighting for.