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Introduce an independent public advocate for bereaved families after a public disaster

To ensure that the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families over the last twenty years is not repeated, we will introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests.

Our Verdict

“Public disasters” in which many lives are lost, such as the one at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989, are usually followed by multiple investigations. These processes are often lengthy, complex, involve multiple agencies, and rely on rules and procedures which the general public are not familiar with. For the families of victims, who have already suffered traumatic loss, this can be an alienating and confusing experience.

This policy is a promise to “introduce an independent public advocate” who would help bereaved families through the necessary period of investigation following a public disaster.

On 10 September 2018 the government launched a consultation on establishing an independent public advocate. The consultation closed on 3 December 2018 and responses are being analysed.

The consultation document clearly restated the intention of this policy pledge:

“We will establish the Independent Public Advocate through primary legislation…”

It outlined the scope of the role as:

“providing support immediately following a disaster…and then as needed throughout the life of an inquiry”

It’s important to note a significant clarification about the legal role of the independent public advocate:

“We do not see the role of the Independent Public Advocate as including the provision of legal advice and representation to those bereaved by a disaster; it is not an ‘advocate’ in that sense”

The consultation, with its confirmation of the intention to legislate, is evidence that this policy is ‘in progress’. We’ll be monitoring the outcome and looking out for the next steps in the legislative process. Once an independent public advocate has been established in law, we will move this to ‘done’. Follow this policy to stay informed.

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