Righting the wrongs of Hillsborough

Last week’s devastating revelations in the Hillsborough Independent Panel report look likely to initiate a wave of new investigations – civil and criminal – related to the tragic events.

Matt Byrne

Lawyers are at the heart of this particular matter. On one side the report proved highly embarrassing for Squire Sanders, containing as it did claims that one of the former partners at its UK legacy firm Hammond Suddards (Peter Metcalf) had been involved in the “review and alteration” of police officers’ recollections about the 1989 disaster.

On the other there is a more positive sheen. Yesterday (Sunday 16 September) several of the families who lost members in the disaster were understood to be speaking with their lawyers, including Michael Mansfield QC of Tooks Chambers and the former Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer, now a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, to discuss future action.

They want the verdicts of accidental death quashed and a new inquest into the events opened. Many will also seek criminal proceedings against those responsible for the tragedy.

The theme of lawyers fighting for individuals’ civil rights looms large in this issue of The Lawyer.

In today’s opinion pages two lawyers closely associated with Hillsborough put their views on the record. Daniel Bennett was among the 40,000 fans at the stadium that day in April 1989. He believes now is the right time for the “lies” surrounding Hillsborough to be finally put to bed and the “truth” to emerge.

Meanwhile, Matrix Chambers’ Julian Knowles QC, who advised the Hillsborough Family Support Group in the Stuart-Smith Inquiry in 1998, argues that too much time may have passed for any meaningful action to be taken.

Their views may differ but both have worked hard to ensure justice for their clients. As has another campaigner highlighted in today’s issue. Jocelyn Cockburn, a partner at London firm Hodge Jones & Allen, picked up The Lawyer’s Partner of the Year award this year for her tireless efforts on behalf of clients such as Neville Lawrence, father of murdered teenager Stephen, the family of victimised Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled daughter, and soldiers she claims were sent to war with inadequate equipment.

Most lawyers start out wanting to right wrongs but then many go for the money instead. Lucky for us, some don’t.