Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Shame of Hillsborough laid bare as justice nears for innocent Liverpool fans

The Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
The Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, trying to escape severe overcrowding
Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, trying to escape severe overcrowding
Debbie Routledge, a survivor in the Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Fans on the pitch at Hillsborough. FA Cup semi final April 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. 96 football fans lost their lives in Britain's worst stadium disaster
Fans receiving attention on the pitch. Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield will always bear the scar of England's worst football tragedy. On April 15th 1989, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives having gone to watch their side contest an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest
Gill and Brian Caldwell being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough
An injured fan receiveing attention on the pitch
An injured fan sits against the goalpost with his leg in a splint
Fans recieving medical attention on the pitch
Hillsborough disaster policeman looks at a pile of police helmets lying on pitch amongst debris
Police shielding injured fans at Hillsborough
Kevin Williams stretchered off on the Hillsborough pitch during the Hillsborough disaster
Injured fans lie on advertising boards which were used as makeshift stretchers
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Bent and twisted fencing at Hillsborough in the aftermath of the tragedy
A distraught young Liverpool fan in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, his wife Marina and daughter Kelly during the memorial service for the victims of the Hillsborough Tragedy.
Scarves and floral tributes laid at Anfield
Scarves and floral tributes at Hillsborough
A young boy adding to the floral tributes at Anfield's Shankly gates
A message written on a wall remebering the Hillsborough disaster victims
Andrew Devine, coma victim of the Hillsborough football disaster
Hillsborough disaster victim Andrew Devine who is now communicating by pressing a micro switch
Margaret Thatcher at Hillsborough
Anfield fans leave flowers in the nets
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
A sea of flowers at Hillsborough stadium, in memory of the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough
Hillsborough Memorial
A Liverpool supporter holding a banner
Fans and players observe a minutes silence at Hillsborough
Liverpool's Xabi Alonso wearing a black armband in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: The Hillsborough memorial is covered with tributes at Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club on September 10, 2012 in Liverpool, England. On Wednesday relatives and friends of the 96 victims will see the full disclosure of all documents relating to the disaster when they are made public at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Fans crushed against the perimeter fence at Hillsborough

Police and emergency services made "strenuous attempts" to deflect the blame for the Hillsborough disaster onto innocent fans, newly published documents about the tragedy revealed today.

Click here to read the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report

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.

"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.

"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."

In its summary the panel said: "It is evident from analysis of the various investigations that from the outset South Yorkshire Police sought to deflect responsibility for the disaster on to Liverpool fans ... there is no evidence to support this view."

The documents also reveal the "extent to which substantive amendments were made" to statements by South Yorkshire Police to remove or alter "unfavourable" comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.

The documents show, for the first time, that South Yorkshire Ambulance Service documents were "subject to the same process", the panel said.

They went on to say the wrongful allegations about the fans' behaviour later printed in some newspapers, particularly The Sun, originated from "a Sheffield press agency, senior SYP officers, an SYP Police Federation spokesperson and a local MP".

The panel said the Police Federation, "supported informally by the SYP Chief Constable", sought to develop and publicise a version of events derived in police officers' allegations of drunkenness, ticketless fans and violence.

"The vast majority of fans on the pitch assisted in rescuing and evaluating the injured and the dead," the panel said.

The panel said their report raises "profound concerns about the conduct and appropriateness of the inquests".

The documents go on to reveal the original pathologists' evidence of a single, unvarying pattern of death was "unsustainable", the panel said.

The families have always disputed the accidental verdict which followed the inquest into the deaths.

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