Kevin Williams — [Mrs Anne Main in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:41 pm on 22nd February 2012.

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Photo of Rob Flello Rob Flello Shadow Minister (Justice) 3:41 pm, 22nd February 2012

If I may, I will break with convention by starting my comments by paying tribute to Mrs Anne Williams for the determined campaign that she has undertaken to seek justice for her son, Kevin. The tireless work that she has put in and the unwavering love of a mother that she has shown for her young son who was tragically robbed of his life, must serve as a reminder to us all of why we are in Parliament—to serve our constituents and our nation.

I thank Stephen Mosley for securing this debate, all those who have signed the petition and indeed all right hon. and hon. Members who have supported the call over many years—too many years—for justice for the 96 who died and the 766 who were injured as a result of events at Hillsborough on that sad day, 15 April 1989. My heartfelt sympathies are with all the families who were affected.

I also put on record my thanks to those who were with Kevin in his final moments, who revived him, carried him and cradled him. Even just reading what happened to Kevin, and to so many others, profoundly moves me, but I cannot begin to comprehend the pain that losing a child such as Kevin—a 15-year-old lad who was just out to watch a footy match on an afternoon—must be like.

That pain was made so much worse by an inquest that was plainly wrong. The evidence that Anne Williams has uncovered and that we have heard today demonstrates clearly that Kevin was indeed alive after 3.15 pm on that day, and it shows just how unsound the original inquests were.

Quite reasonably, there has been a great deal of criticism about how the coroner conducted those original inquests and about how the 3.15 pm time limit has stopped important evidence being brought forward. Our outdated coroner system needs the reforms that were legislated for in 2009, and more reform. If inquests had been properly conducted in the past, justice could have been achieved years ago and decades of pain could have been tempered.

May I gently suggest to the Attorney-General that he speaks to his colleagues at the Ministry of Justice? That is because a chief coroner, with appropriate powers and an appeals system, was one of the lessons learned from terrible events such as Hillsborough. The Government need to rethink the implications of stripping away the powers of the chief coroner from the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

As we have heard this afternoon and on other occasions, mistakes—some of them genuine errors, others examples of incompetence and even worse behaviour—led to the tragic events at Hillsborough. However, we have also heard that mistakes, incompetence and even worse behaviour happened after the 3.15 pm cut-off time, which have never been examined at inquests. The cover-up that then took place was, to say the least, shameful.

I am pleased that the Attorney-General has said that he will look again at Kevin’s case and I look forward to hearing what he intends to do, as people’s expectations are rightly and understandably high. I hope that he will set out what he can do and, just as importantly, what he feels he is unable to do. If he feels bound by legal constraints, he needs to make those constraints clear and then explain what—if anything—can be done to change those legal barriers. After all, that is what this House is here for; it is here to change legislation if that is what is needed.

I conclude my remarks to give the Attorney-General plenty of time to respond to the debate and if I may I will again break the normal conventions by turning to the Public Gallery and saying that Anne, her family and so many other families need full answers, and inquests that can properly hear testimony about what happened on that profoundly sad day are an important part of getting those answers. I hope that before the 25th painful anniversary of Hillsborough we will have had a proper inquest into the tragic death of Kevin Williams and that Anne—through her mother’s love—can get justice for her son.