UK: Hillsborough families examine previously unpublished evidence relating to 1989 tragedy
POLICE and emergency services made “strenuous attempts” to deflect the blame for the Hillsborough disaster on to innocent fans, newly published documents about the tragedy revealed today.
The disclosures were made by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has been overseeing the release of thousands of official documents relating to Britain’s deadliest sporting disaster.
Ninety six Liverpool supporters died in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989, where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.
Introducing the report to the Hillsborough families at the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, Bishop James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool and chairman of the panel, said: “For nearly a quarter of a century the families of the 96 and the survivors of Hillsborough have nursed an open wound waiting for answers to unresolved questions.
“It has been a frustrating and painful experience adding to their grief.
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“In spite of all the investigations they have sensed that their search for truth and justice has been thwarted and that no-one has been held accountable.
“The documents disclosed to and analysed by the panel show that the tragedy should never have happened.
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“There were clear operational failures in response to the disaster and in its aftermath their were strenuous attempts to deflect the blame onto the fans.
“The panel’s detailed report shows how vulnerable victims, survivors and their families are when transparency and accountability are compromised.
“My colleagues and I were from the start of our work impressed by the dignified determination of the families.”
He added: “The panel produces this report without any presumption of where it will lead. But it does so in the profound hope that greater transparency will bring to the families and to the wider public a greater understanding of the tragedy and its aftermath.
“For it is only with this transparency that the families and survivors, who have behaved with such dignity, can with some sense of truth and justice cherish the memory of their 96 loved ones.”
Relatives and survivors began arriving at Liverpool Cathedral from 8am where they met members of the panel and viewed the documents.
Speaking earlier, Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said they hope the documents will answer some of the questions they have about the causes and aftermath of the tragedy.
“This is what the families and the fans have been fighting for 23 years. Without the truth you cannot grieve and where there is deceit, you get no justice,” Mrs Aspinall, 65, said.
Prime Minister David Cameron will address MPs in the House of Commons following PMQs and the documents will be uploaded to a website for viewing by the general public.
A report into the disaster by Lord Justice Taylor, published in 1990, found that the main reason for the disaster was a failure of “police control” but the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution.
The victims’ families say it is an injustice that no individual or organisation has been held fully accountable for the disaster. They believe a major incident plan was never initiated by South Yorkshire Police and fans in the Leppings Lane end were denied emergency medical attention.
The families also dispute the findings of an inquest into the deaths, which ruled that the victims were all dead, or brain dead, by 3.15pm and which subsequently recorded a verdict of accidental death.
It is expected the families will meet in the coming days to decide what action to take, if any, following the disclosures.
They are being advised by two of Britain’s best known lawyers, Michael Mansfield and Lord Falconer.
The panel was created by then home secretary Jacqui Smith following the 20th anniversary of the disaster in April 2009.
Central to the panel’s work is to prepare and publish a comprehensive report based on in-depth research into the documents to “add to public understanding of the tragedy, its circumstances and its aftermath”.
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