Lawyers for families of the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy today unveiled proposals for legislation that would require public officials to act in the public interest.
A draft Public Authorities Accountability Bill, dubbed Hillsborough Law, would codify the public law duty of authorities and public servants to tell the truth and act with candour.
The families claimed afterwards that public authorities had been unnecessarily defensive and made the inquest more complex and lengthy than they wanted.
South Yorkshire police chief constable David Crompton was removed following proceedings after criticism over the stance taken by lawyers representing the force.
The Hillsborough families say they want to ensure public authorities do not try to cover up faults and deny responsibility for any future failings.
‘The families of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster have spent 27 years fighting not only for justice for their loved ones, but so that what happened to them can never happen again,’ they said.
‘The recent Hillsborough inquests made it all too clear that not enough has changed when it comes to public institutions acting in the public interest. It is time to put that right.’
Under the proposed bill, public servants and officials will be required to act in the public interest and with transparency, candour and frankness. They shall be under a duty to assist court proceedings, official inquiries and investigations.
An exception to these requirements will only be considered if the chief officer or chief executive of the public authority has given express reasons in writing.
A public servant or official will be found to have committed an offence if they intentionally or recklessly mislead in general public or media, mislead courts proceedings or any inquiry or investigation, and if they omit or fail to provide important information.
It will be an offence to refuse to provide, or unreasonably avoid providing, a witness statement to a court, inquiry or investigation, with a potential term of imprisonment for those found to have done so.