Hillsborough Law: Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to join new call for inquest changes this week

Mr Burnham described the legal system as ‘cruel’ for bereaved families and said it needed ‘fundamental’ reform.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham will this week join fellow politicians and campaigners to once again call for a Hillsborough Law.

The deaths of 96 Liverpool fans on the Leppings Lane terrace at the Sheffield stadium in 1989 has once again captivated TV audiences through the drama Anne, following the story of Anne Williams who lost her son Kevin and became a key campaigner for justice.

Mr Burnham paid tribute to the programme in his press briefing on Wednesday (5 January).

And he said he will be joining campaigners and Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram on Friday to demand what he called “fundamental reform” to a legal system which he says is “cruel” for bereaved families.

What is the Hillsborough Law and why does Mr Burnham want it?

Mr Burnham has repeatedly been scathing about the way the Hillsborough families have been treated by the legal system during their three-decade long fight for justice.

The Hillsborough Law would bring in a number of measures including giving bereaved families better access to money for legal representation at inquests and a duty of candour for public officials.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mr Burnham again set out in strong terms his views on why things need to change.

He said: “Anne’s story is not stuck in the past, there are bereaved families going through something very similar today.

“The legal system hasn’t changed. It’s still cruel when it comes to the way it deals with bereaved families.

Hillsborough the day after the disaster in 1989. Photo: Derek Hudson/Getty Images

“They go into courtrooms, raw with grief, and face the highest QCs in the land hired at great public expense while they are scrabbling around for legal fees.

“The odds are completely stacked against bereaved families.

“Truth is often not established at the first opportunity.

“You can think of inquests relating to major disasters but also to ones affecting individual families. The system doesn’t work for them.

“The Hillsborough Law is shorthand for a comprehensive, fundamental reform of the legal and criminal justice system, to level up the scales of justice in favour of bereaved families.”

Mr Burnham said the Government also had a role to play in responding, several years after it was sent the document, to a report issued outlining the experiences of the Hillsborough families in their fight for justice and making a number of recommendations for legal changes.

What did Mr Burnham say about the TV programme Anne?

Mr Burnham heaped praise on the team behind the drama Anne, which includes Atherton actor Matthew McNulty playing the mayor himself.

He said: “Anne is television at its most powerful. I would like to congratulate Maxine Peake for the way she has faithfully captured the essence of Anne. I knew Anne, not well but I did know her, and everyone is completely struck by how well she is capturing what Anne was about.

Maxine Peake stars as Anne Williams, a grieving mother who lost her son in the Hillsborough disaster

“Her struggle represents all of the families as well. The screenwriter has done a phenomenal job in tracing the human story behind the wider story.

“People have been touched by Anne’s story, moved by what they have seen and by the way this will continue to go on until the system is fundamentally changed.

“Friday will be a major intervention with people from all walks of life coming together to make the call for a Hillsborough Law now.”