Legal fees equality fight will go on

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham

Leigh MP Andy Burnham has vowed “the fight will go on” as his proposal for equality on legal funding for bereaved families did not receive support in the Commons.

The shadow home secretary tabled an added clause to the Police and Crime Bill currently going through parliament.

“I cannot see how anybody can argue against the principle of equality in legal funding for bereaved families at inquests.”

Andy Burnham

Dubbed the Hillsborough Law, it would see families given greater access to legal funding to create parity with the police and other authorities.

But the proposal did not receive the necessary cross-party support in the House of Commons on Monday evening.

Mr Burnham said: “Parliament had a chance today to make Hillsborough a moment of real change.

“It failed to do that and that will be deeply disappointing to all of the people who fought so hard for justice. I cannot see how anybody can argue against the principle of equality in legal funding for bereaved families at inquests.

“Until that principle is enshrined in law the injustices will carry on happening and the establishment will continue to ride rough-shod over ordinary families.”

The Leigh MP is pushing for the reforms because individuals hoping to hold public bodies to account through the current system are forced to raise their own legal fees, highlighted by the 27-year struggle by the Hillsborough families to have the original inquest verdicts overturned.

Mr Burnham did have success with the government agreeing on a proposal to prevent senior police officers from retiring before they face misconduct proceedings.

Prior to his amendments being discussed on Monday, Mr Burnham said: “The 27-year struggle of the Hillsborough families exposes how the odds are all too frequently stacked against ordinary families seeking truth and justice. Hillsborough must mark a moment of real change when Parliament rebalances the police and criminal justice system and puts more power in the hands of ordinary people.

“Never again should any bereaved families have to fight like the Hillsborough families have had to fight.

“We must call time on the uneven playing field at inquests where public bodies spend public money like water on hiring the best lawyers when ordinary families have to scratch around for whatever they can get.

“Public money should be spent on helping us get to the truth, not on protecting backs in the public sector.” Mr Burnham had also called for the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry, looking at the relationship between the police and the press, but that also failed to gain support. He said: “The Government made a clear commitment to victims of press intrusion.