“COVID19 bereaved families are terrified to become the next Hillsborough families”

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COVID19 families are terrified to become the next Hillsborough families
Professor Lynn Sudbury-Riley speaks at the the Hillsborough Law Now Coalition rally. Source: Daily Mirror

As the Labour Party pledges its support for a Hillsborough Law, bereavement expert, Professor Lynn Sudbury-Riley, explained how COVID19 bereaved families fear becoming the next Hillsborough families, at the Labour Party Conference on 26 September 2022.

Following her research into the Lived Experiences of COVID19 bereavement, Professor Lynn Sudbury-Riley was invited to the Hillsborough Law Now Coalition rally to speak on behalf of the COVID19 Bereaved Families for Justice (CBFJ) group.

Lynn, who was also a close friend of the 97th Hillsborough victim, Andy Devine, spoke about the CBFJ’s experience in fighting for a fair and transparent public enquiry into the UK’s response to and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Talking about the similarities between grief experiences of victims’ relatives from both events, Lynn said: “At the time, when I did the interviews, we were still fighting for a public inquiry, and what came through was the importance of fairness and justice, and a real fear that it wasn’t going to be fair.

“Time and again, people mentioned Hillsborough: ‘Those families who had been fighting for 30 years, is that what we are going to have to face?’

“And they were worried there was going to be a whitewash, and has that whitewash already begun?

“The families are only going to get to tell their stories through a third-party market research company, and some of those who are bidding for the contract currently work with the Government on COVID communications…. and so it begins”

 “The COVID-19 bereaved families are terrified to become the next Hillsborough families, fighting for years, and years, and years, so the Hillsborough Law will help us to avoid that.”


Ensuring justice for victims of disasters or state-related deaths

The Hillsborough Law Now Coalition brings together a wide variety of groups campaigning for justice.

The Public Advocate and Accountability Bill, known colloquially as The Hillsborough Law, seeks to create a new legal duty of candour on public authorities, and ensure victims of disasters or state-related deaths are entitled to parity of legal representation during inquests and inquiries.

This will mean bereaved families can get legal aid, just as public money is used to support King's Counsels, when representing the State.  

During the Labour Party’s Conference in Liverpool, Sir Keir Starmer promised to “get this city the justice it deserves”, as he announced one of his first acts as Prime Minister will be to introduce the Hillsborough Law.


Making the voices of bereaved families heard

Lynn has extensive experience as a researcher into palliative and end of life care, and bereavement services.

After losing her father to COVID19 in March 2020, she started an investigation into the lived experiences and long-term impact of the pandemic on those left behind, in their quest for clarity and transparency in the inquiry.

The resulting report, has been endorsed by the CBFJ group and forms part of the evidence presented to Government Ministers.

The document provides a series of recommendations which the authors and the CBFJ are urging the Government to take on board.

Lynn has also worked alongside the group to record an emotional video titled ‘A Death Like No Other’, which further highlights how being bereaved during the pandemic is very different to any other context, due to the total absence of contact with loved ones.