Dominic Raab promises new independent ombudsman to support victims of major disasters like Hillsborough | Political News

The Government has pledged to create a new independent public advocate (IPA) to support victims of major disasters, following a long campaign by the families of the Hillsborough disaster.

The measure was proposed five years ago following a report on the tragedy that saw 97 football fans die as a result of a crash at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989.

An inquest ruled in 2016 that the victims were unlawfully killed amid a number of police blunders, and an inquiry led by the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones urged ministers to introduce the Hillsborough Act as a result – including the public ombudsman measure.

But the government has faced growing criticism from families for failing to respond to the official report – all 25 of its recommendations – outlining their experiences.

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Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has now confirmed that legislation will be introduced “as soon as possible” to establish an independent public ombudsman to support survivors and bereaved people affected by tragedies such as Hillsborough, Grenfell and the Manchester bombings.

Speaking in the Commons, he said a panel of experts would act to represent the families “to put the victims and bereaved at the heart of our response to large-scale public disasters, to ensure they get the support they deserve through public inquiries and research, and make sure they get the answers they need to move forward with their lives.”

Mr Raab said “we must learn the lessons” from the Hillsborough disaster, adding: “The independent public ombudsman goes some way to delivering on this government’s long-standing promise to ensure that the pain, suffering of its victims Hillsborough and the other victims will never be repeated. again.”

The justice minister also promised a response to the wider report this spring, saying: “We know in our heads and in our hearts that there is still much to do to heal the wounds of this horrific and heartbreaking tragedy.”

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Former Conservative prime minister Theresa May praised the measure, which she pledged to introduce in her 2017 election manifesto, and offered to work with the government to ensure “this body lives up to the ambition of the pledge”.

But he also called for the ability of survivors and bereaved to initiate the process with their own attorney “because certainly in the case of Hillsborough, it was the fact that the state and state authorities closed their doors to people that led to the 34-year wait for any answers for the families”.

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow justice minister, Steve Reid, whose party has promised to introduce the full Hillsborough Act if they get into powersaid the proposals “do not go far enough and will be too weak as they currently stand to prevent cover-ups in the future”.

“Today is an opportunity to balance the scales of justice and give victims the voice they need and the power to make it heard, but it is an opportunity the government has missed,” he added.

“How many more tragedies will it take for this government to wake up? How many more lives must be lost?”

Earlier today, reports said Mr Raab had offered to meet the Hillsborough families and apologized to them in a letter seen by the PA news agency.

He wrote: “I’m sorry it took so long to get to this point and I’m determined to create the IPA as soon as possible.”

Elkan Abrahamson, director of Hillsborough Law Now and solicitor at Broudie Jackson Canter, said the current government’s engagement with Hillsborough families was “virtually non-existent”.

“We will be asking the justice minister for the same commitment that Labor gave us last year to reintroduce the Public Authority (Accountability) Bill,” he said.

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