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Police could be disciplined years after leaving force under 'Hillsborough law'

Published 13/06/2016

Andy Burnham will urge other parties to support the measures
Andy Burnham will urge other parties to support the measures

Police officers could face the prospect of disciplinary proceedings many years after they have left the force, under new proposals being put forward by the Government.

Ministers have already tabled plans for officers to face misconduct investigations for up to 12 months after retiring, but a new amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill would extend the period in "exceptional circumstances", Downing Street has announced.

The announcement came as shadow home secretary Andy Burnham called for a "Hillsborough law" to help individuals fighting against police misconduct.

Labour are hoping to force two votes on the Bill in the House of Commons on Monday to rebalance the policing and criminal justice system in families' favour.

Mr Burnham is urging MPs to back parity of funding for legal representation for bereaved families at inquests where the police are involved. And he argues there should be no limit on the period after leaving the force that officers can face a misconduct probe.

He called for the removal of the time limit to be made retrospective, so it could apply to officers involved in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, where 96 Liverpool fans died. A much-delayed inquest found in April that the fans were unlawfully killed and failings by police contributed to their deaths.

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokeswoman said an amendment to be brought forward in the House of Lords would extend the proposed period of time under which misconduct proceedings can be brought "in exceptional circumstances", but was unable to say whether there would be any time limit or whether the change would be imposed retrospectively.

"We had already proposed in this Bill to introduce new measures so investigations and disciplinary proceedings could take place within 12 months of an officer's departure," said the spokeswoman.

"We will now bring forward an amendment to allow in exceptional circumstances for disciplinary proceedings to be brought outside of that time period."

The spokeswoman said that the Government agreed with the "spirit" of Mr Burnham's call for parity of funding, but said any decision should await a report being written by the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones.

"This is something we want to look at and the Home Secretary has asked Bishop Jones to compile a report on that," said the spokeswoman. "Our view is that we should wait for his report before making further decisions, but we support the spirit of the amendment."

Mr Burnham is also calling on MPs to back a requirement for the Government to press ahead with the second planned phase of the Leveson Inquiry, which would look into the relationship between police and press, as well as a ban on unattributable briefings to the media by police.

The shadow home secretary 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."

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