Our work on the Hillsborough inquest, helping Liverpudlian firm Broudie Jackson Canter represent 19 families of victims of the Hillsborough disaster, stemmed from our involvement with the pro bono work at The Liverpool Law Clinic, operating within the University of Liverpool.
Our first task involved sorting and classifying documents collected by Anne Williams, mother of Kevin Williams, from her years of campaigning for her son and the other 95 victims.
We, together with other students on the team, sorted documents, assessing their relevance and logging them onto a database, referring them on to specific teams if relevant. We were also required to decide whether they were covered by legal privilege before scanning all documents onto the paperless system used by the inquest.
Some of these documents were distressing by their nature, some were personal and we had to ensure we approached the work professionally, handling all documents sensitively and with respect.
This initial task was burdened by time limits due to a deadline, set by the coroner, for disclosure. We worked throughout our Christmas break in order to ensure we complied with the deadline.
Handling the documents allowed us insight into Anne’s fight for justice, which at times was upsetting and difficult to read. Despite this, seeing the evidence of her long pursuit of justice has made us feel humbled and we are proud to be of assistance.
Having completed the initial task in advance of the deadline, we were fortunate enough to be nominated and shortlisted for the LawWorks and Attorney General Pro Bono Awards. The award ceremony was held at the House of Commons at the start of April.
Receiving the award for Best Contribution as a Student Team reinforced the positive impact our work has had. Poignantly, the ceremony was held on a vital day in the pursuit of justice for the 96, as it coincided with the jury being sworn in at the fresh inquest.
Since completing the initial task on Anne Williams’ documents, a number of others have been assigned to us. Because we have all signed professional undertakings to the Coroner we are prevented from saying more. Suffice to say we are involved in reviewing evidence and carrying out additional research.
This project has enabled us to gain valuable insight into legal practice, offering us an opportunity to develop various high order skills, as well as how to remain professional and objective when faced with powerful and potentially distressing materials.
Alexandra Charlton and Chris Williams are final year law students at the University of Liverpool