MP calls on Government to create role of Independent Public Advocate

MP calls on Government to create role of Independent Public Advocate

by Henry James (January 2020)

MERSEYSIDE MP Bill Esterson has called on the Government to "act swiftly" to create the promised new role of Independent Public Advocate to help support the families of victims of tragedies such as Hillsborough and the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Independent Public Advocate was proposed by the Government as part of a package of measures designed to help support victims' families during police investigations and inquests where public bodies, such as the police and ambulance service, were involved.

Despite a consultation taking place in 2018, no firm proposals for the Public Advocate have been forthcoming. The Sefton Central MP Mr Esterson has written to the Justice Secretary demanding an update.

Following decades of campaigning by the Hillsborough families following the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989, the original inquest result into the deaths was quashed and a new inquest was ordered, at which the 96 were found to have been unlawfully killed.

For almost three decades the families had to fight without any public funding or support. At the new inquest, which concluded in 2016, the families had their legal fees paid by the Government. As part of a package of measures put forward by the Government so that other families would not have to suffer the same ordeal as the Hillsborough families, an Independent Public Advocate was proposed.

Part of the Public Advocate's role would be to help guide bereaved families through police investigations and inquests to help keep them informed and to offer support.

The Government ran a consultation on the introduction of the role of Public Advocate from September 10 to December 3 2018, but have yet to publish the outcome.

In response to a Parliamentary Question on October 1 last year, the Government said they were "continuing to consider the responses to the proposals for an Independent Public Advocate on which we consulted last year and will be publishing our plans for establishing the role in due course".

Mr Esterson said the delay was unacceptable and that the Hillsborough families deserved better: "The Hillsborough families have been through enough and they want to see the introduction of the Independent Public Advocate without delay. The Government should act swiftly on this; the delay is unacceptable. They have had enough time.

"In 2017 we saw another huge disaster in the Grenfell Tower fire, with dozens more families now in a similar situation to the Hillsborough families: battling against the state for the answers they need to understand why their loved ones died.

"I have written to the Justice Minister to ask him to update me immediately regarding the progress of the Independent Public Advocate."

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