Join us to discuss the failure of the British legal system to secure justice for Zane, in the face of political pressures and cover-ups.
About this eventIn 2014, the failure to properly investigate and regulate contaminated landfill and the presence of dangerous chemicals by the Government resulted in the tragic death of 7-year-old Zane. Join us to discuss the failure of the British legal system to secure justice for Zane and his family, in the face of political pressures and cover-ups.
We will be joined by Zane’s parents discussing their ongoing struggle for an Independent Panel Inquiry into his death as well as Deborah Coles, executive director of Inquest, reflecting on access to truth, justice and accountability in 2022.
ONLINE ZOOM EVENT
Date: Thurs 4 August
Register here >>
Zane's parent will be speaking alongside other grieving families and advocates, MP's and campaigners at the launch of "Hillsborough Law Now" https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hillsborough-law-now-tickets-383477370137?aff=estw&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-medium=discovery&utm-source=tw&utm-term=listing… PLEASE READ HILLSBOROUGH LAW NOW CAMPAIGN Tuesday 19th July 2022 PLEASE NOTE: THAT DUE TO THE SEVERE WEATHER WARNING AND THE CLOSURE OF PORTCULLIS HOUSE THE HILLSBOROUGH LAW NOW WILL NOW TAKE PLACE ONLINE 18:00 -19:00
Natalie Bennett is a Green Party peer and a Contributing Editor to Left Foot Forward
Some families who’ve lost a loved one under awful circumstances, highly commendably, seek to ensure that no one else will have to suffer as they’ve suffered. It’s an impulse that’s given us important legal provisions, from Natasha’s law, about the labelling of allergens in pre-packed food, to Helen’s law, which demands that murderers cooperate with the authorities over finding their victim’s bodies before they can get parole.
And it is what’s driven the campaign for Zane’s Law – starting out its parliamentary progress yesterday as an amendment to the Building Safety Bill.
It is named after Zane Gbangbola, for whom was also founded the Truth About Zane campaign, which is still working, with support ranging from that of Sir Keir Starmer and Andy Burnham to the FBU and the CWU, to Conservative-controlled Spelthorne Borough Council. It’s a campaign to get on the record the truth about the seven-year-old’s death in Chertsey in 2014, when floods swept hideously toxic hydrogen cyanide into the family home. That’s not what the inquest verdict included in 2016 – but the inequality of arms and the illogic of that verdict – is something the campaign continues to fight on to correct.
But last year, Zane’s parents, Kye and Nicole, and their supporters took up an even broader issue – the question of why it was that they, and the rest of the community, had no knowledge of the danger of the historic landfill site near their home. They launched the campaign at Green Party conference, and took it to COP26, where Jeremy Corbyn and I talked to the family at a public event that became a podcast.
For what happened to Zane (and his father Kye – who was left paralysed by the hydrogen cyanide) could awfully, terribly easily happen to another family, or whole community.
The issue goes back to 1974, when the Control of Pollution Act first took control over waste disposal, but before that came into effect, many dumps were quietly closed, and since pretty well forgotten, as campaigner Paul Mobbs explains in a disturbing video.
EU regulations on waste and pollution required the tightening of those controls under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 143, bringing in an obligation on local authorities to investigate their areas and draw up “public registers of land that may be contaminated”. Section 61 gave local waste authorities powers to inspect closed landfills and clean them up if necessary.
But lots of new housing developments, in particular, are on old landfill sites. Under pressure, the government held three consultations on contaminated landfill registers from 1991 to 1993, eventually deciding that Section 143 would not be enacted, and all plans for public registers of contaminated sites would be dropped. The explanation given was cost, and desire not to place “new regulatory burdens on the private sector”.
Limited powers were brought in in 1995 – although not coming into force until 2000 – that meant often when developers found contamination problems, public authorities had to pay.
But it got worse In 2012, as part of the Cameron government’s “bonfire of red tape”, to reduce the statutory burdens, the right of enforcement authorities to use the law was further reduced – the emphasis being on “voluntary” cleanup, with no real power to check it has been done.
The initial draft of Zane’s Law is simple. It demands that local authorities assess the risk posed by land contamination to building safety. That’s essentially taking us back to the provision of 1990, although of course it is not that simple, so there’s a second amendment, calling for the government to publish a review examining the issue of land contamination and its impact on building safety.
The focus on buildings is because it has to fit within the scope of this Bill – ideally in future it should also cover playgrounds, farmland, and any other usage. And even just on buildings, it is picking up a crucial issue. It is evident that there’s a great risk at potential locations of new homes right around the country, from Carlisle to Cambridge, Dudley to Newbury.
But there’s also the issue of the climate emergency, new extremes of weather, particularly floods, but also heatwaves, that cause events such as that which tragically claimed young Zane’s life more likely.
To identify the size and scale of the problem, in every local authority in the land, has to be the starting point to fixing it, and preventing future risk to life.
Link to the Hansard >>
Please listen to our interview with Jeremy Corbyn and Natalie Bennett as we call for Zane’s Law.
Today is all about love and no child was ever loved more than Zane. We will not stop until we have the TruthAboutZane ❤️
The Peace & Justice Project presents…
The Peace & Justice Podcast ‘Episode 1: The Truth About Zane’.
Join us for part one of our new six part podcast series, The Peace & Justice Podcast, hosted by Jeremy Corbyn.
Recorded as part of our Alternative COP26 at Websters Theatre in Glasgow in November, Jeremy meets with Nicole and Kye Gbangbola and former leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett, to discuss the Truth About Zane campaign (truthaboutzane.com) and their fight for justice for their son who died from suspected hydrogen cyanide poisoning after flooding at a landfill site near their Surrey home in 2014.
Recorded at Websters Theatre in Glasgow
Theme by Jake Thomas
'The system is so unjust': PUBLIC AUTHORITIES AND POLICE should be compelled to tell truth by law, bereaved families say
Bereaved families, former prime ministers and a host of high-profile public figures have come together for a 'Hillsborough Law Now' event broadcast live on Facebook.
This comes after the powerful ITV drama "Anne", which tells the story of Anne Williams' fight for justice for her son Kevin.
Gordon Brown and Theresa May have thrown their weight behind the campaign for a “Hillsborough law”, designed to rebalance the justice system and ensure fairer treatment for bereaved families.
The former prime ministers joined speakers from academia, sport, journalism and the arts at an event on Friday afternoon to express support for measures aimed at preventing others from going through the fight for justice faced by the families of the tragedy’s victims.
Some of the most powerful testimonies came from people who lost relatives not just at Hillsborough, but also at Grenfell Tower, the Manchester Arena bombing, TruthAboutZane and other major tragedies and scandals.
May said what happened at Hillsborough, “the death of 97 Liverpool fans failed by the state”, was tragedy enough for the families. “But what followed was injustice heaped on injustice. Years of beating their heads against a brick wall of government and the legal and judicial system which added untold pain and suffering.”
Brown said the Hillsborough law was needed now. “No delays. No prevarications. No excuses to secure justice for you [bereaved families] and everyone who in future may face the same challenges.
“No one. No one should ever have to go through what Hillsborough families have had to live through. No one should be denied the truth, as you were denied the truth. No one should have had to wait so long to be heard, as you waited so long. No one should be kept in the dark by bureaucratic indifference and deceitful lies, like your families.”
One strand of the new law would be a statutory duty of candour on all public servants during public inquiries and criminal investigations. “That means no cover-ups, no concealments, no closing of ranks,” said Brown.
Margaret Aspinall's son James was 18 when he was killed at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, one of 97 people who died from the injuries they sustained that day.
'Hillsborough cover-up shows system is corrupt'
"I think this Hillsborough Law is so important," she said. "It won't be any good now to the families, obviously - our journey is more or less done. But it's going to be important for other people. The system is so unjust and unfair, I feel like we're back in the dark ages."
Mrs Aspinall says the police cover-up after Hillsborough shows the system is corrupt, and that's why a new law is needed.
The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham is leading calls for a statutory duty of candour on all police officers, which would mean they are legally required to tell the truth during all forms of public inquiry.
"We've been living in a country where bereaved families often come up against public bodies that close ranks that create false narratives," he said. "It's just not a level playing field, and so you see this pattern repeat itself and repeat itself."
His calls for reform are based on a report in 2017 reflecting on the Hillsborough families' experiences. The recommendations include creating a charter for relatives bereaved through public tragedy, providing publicly-funded legal representation for families at inquests, and appointing a public advocate to act for them.
The Labour politician Lord Falconer, a former secretary of state for justice, said he had always trusted the law. “But the law deserves absolutely no trust in relation to what happened in the Hillsborough case. The extraordinary thing about it is that people kept going for 33 years … They did not get justice.
“Truth came out, but no justice. The law, in effect, damaged and destroyed people it was supposed to protect and it utterly ravaged and vilified families who were fighting for justice.”
Most of the speakers, who included the Liverpool legend Sir Kenny Dalglish, appeared virtually from their homes and offices. A small number spoke in person at the event, held at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, co-hosted by the mayor of Liverpool, Steve Rotheram, and the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.
Burnham asked why the galleries were so packed with artefacts telling stories of ordinary people struggling to fight for rights, fairness and justice. “It’s because when things go wrong in this country, the fight that people face is too long and too hard. When things go wrong, the authorities close ranks. They blame victims. They sometimes create false narratives that can be very hard to shift.”
He said access to justice was still linked to your class, your accent and whether you have access to a social connection, and praised Brown and May for their roles in helping to bring truth for the Hillsborough families.
Zane's daddy Kye said, "Despite the truth being visible the inquest acted to systematically strip Zane of his human rights, using a false lens of plausible deniability. If they can do this to the 97 and their families, just imagine what they can do to one family walking alone.
Hillsborough makes clear the truth is imperative in order that others can be protected and justice be served. The patronising disposition, and disgrace of unaccountable power, is neither confined to Hillsborough, or the past. So we call on the Government to commit to bring forward a comprehensive Hillsborough Law without further delay.
For Zane you must ask yourselves what kind of a country do we live in where there is no investigation into Hydrogen Cyanide, a weapon of mass destruction, in a neighbourhood?"
In an emotional ending Zane's mummy Nicole said, "Zane is not just a lie on a death certificate, No child was ever loved more and we will die fighting if we have to.
Please help us, do not let history repeat itself. I do not want to die before we undo the lies that dishonour him. And he can finally rest in peace. Zane did not die accidentally; he was unlawfully killed. The evidence is there. Zane died, the authorities lied."
Andy Burnham said he remembered meeting Zane's mummy in Parliament and said "we were with you then, we are with you now and we will be with you always!"
You can watch our contribution here if you don’t have time to watch the full video on the above link.
We are beyond proud and moved to announce that at COP26 we launched Zane’s Law aiming to close loopholes in Environmental Protection Act 2010 on registration of landfills. A law that protects our children now, & in the future, from the dangers of landfill & climatic change. The Green Party announce the pursuit of Zane's Law at COP26 Peace and Justice Project. #ZanesLaw
A council is seeking information from the Ministry of Defence over claims chemicals were dumped on land behind a house where a seven-year-old boy died.
Zane Gbangbola's parents say he died from gases washed out of a tip during flooding in 2014.
In 2020, a MoD whistleblower told the BBC that subcontractors working for a tank base dumped chemicals on land in Chertsey, including behind Zane's home.
The MoD has not yet commented to the BBC on Spelthorne council's request.
The request for information is part of preparatory work by officers after councillors agreed tests should take place on the land.
Officers said the council would request information from the MoD next week.
Zane's parents, Kye Gbangbola and Nicole Lawler, dispute inquest findings from 2016 that their son died from carbon monoxide from a pump used to clear flood water.
They have always said the pump was not in use.
They have obtained Public Health England documents showing hydrogen cyanide was detected in their home.
In a report to go before councillors on Wednesday, officers said specialist legal advice had been sought on how the authority could test the land.
Officers also said they submitted a freedom of information request to the Environment Agency in October because the inquest evidence on waste permits was unclear.
They said potential new information since the inquest included claims made to the BBC by a former MoD engineer, who asked to remain anonymous.
The whistleblower claimed subcontractors working for the tank research facility five miles from the house used to dump waste chemicals in local gravel pits.
The MoD previously told the BBC it would not comment on the whistleblower's claims unless formal allegations were made.
Next steps could include an update to an earlier desktop study that assessed the land and then site investigation, the report said.
However, Zane's father, who is attending the COP26 climate conference, said officers made "no mention of the further increased risks to people and the environment as the climate changes".
Mr Gbangbola, who has previously called for tests on the land to be carried out independently, also drew attention to another incident at Denman Drive in 2009-11 where the council had taken remedial action.
He said: "At Denman, it only took a stain on a child's dress to investigate and cyanide was found."
Listen to Zane's father on Radio Surrey with Danny Pike
Green Party conference Fringe: The Truth about Zane - climate change, accountability and social justice
Please start at 00:06:13
Legal Aid Agency refuse
3 times to grant family legal aid for inquest