Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Worker fired over Hillsborough Wiki

A civil servant has been sacked for making offensive Wikipedia edits about the Hillsborough disaster, but efforts to find other culprits are being abandoned, Francis Maude said today.

A junior administrator has been identified as being behind posts in 2012 and fired for gross misconduct , the Cabinet Office minister said .

The 24-year-old, born in London but based in Liverpool, changed the phrase "You'll never walk alone", the anthem of Liverpool FC, to read: "You'll never walk again."

He was tracked down after the Daily Telegraph and internet group Wikipediocracy cross-referenced his social media history and work records.

Mr Maude said in a statement to MPs: "Extensive further inquiries were taken forward as a Civil Service disciplinary matter, involving potential breaches of the Civil Service Code and of individual departments' policies on acceptable behaviour.

"An individual was then subject to a formal disciplinary investigation and dismissed for gross misconduct, on the grounds of responsibility for the 2012 edits."

Describing the individual as a " young, junior administrative officer", Mr Maude said it was " long-standing established practice that in such cases an individual's name will not be made public".

But he said the investigation had been unable to identify the source of other abusive edits - which began on the 20th anniversary of the 1989 tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans died.

In one instance "Blame Liverpool fans" was anonymously added to the Hillsborough section of the online encyclopedia.

Mr Maude said: "There are substantial technical obstacles to investigating the other edits. The deletion of internet data logs in the ordinary course of business means that tracing historic edits to a particular department, building or individual has proved extremely difficult.

"In the absence of other specific leads, and despite a great deal of forensic and other work, it has not been possible to identify the originators of the 2009 edit or any of the others in question.

"Subject to further information or leads coming to light, the investigation into the edits is therefore concluded."

Mr Maude said information provided by journalist Oliver Duggan, who wrote the story for the Liverpool Echo, had been " extremely helpful".

Users of the Government network are being "reminded of their responsibilities" and social media guidance is being updated, he added.

"These incidents have given rise to questions about the Government Secure Intranet, about the way in which the internet is accessed from Government and its use recorded, and about social media policies in departments," Mr Maude said.

"We will continue to encourage and enable civil servants to use the internet and social media, as essential tools enabling them to work openly and to be connected to the society they serve.

"But the misuse of social media is unacceptable and carries consequences. We will be reminding all civil servants of their responsibilities and updating social media guidance."

Mr Maude added: "I would like to thank the families themselves for their patience during the weeks it has taken to bring this matter to a conclusion. I was deeply distressed that, at a time when the hearings of the Hillsborough Inquests were unfolding, the Civil Service was brought into disrepute by these edits.

"No one should be in any doubt of the Government's position regarding the Hillsborough disaster and its support for the families of the 96 victims and all those affected by the tragedy."

Barry Devonside lost his son, Chris, 18, in the disaster.

Mr Devonside, attending the Hillsborough Inquests in Warrington, said today: "I'm absolutely delighted that the investigation has come to a conclusion and they have identified the individual who made sickening comments on Wikipedia.

"Clearly this 24-year-old civil servant has little or no regard for the families or any empathy for those killed.

"He's brought it on himself. The words he used were sickening and I'm glad the investigation by the Government has come to a conclusion and his career with the Civil Service has now ended."


From Belfast Telegraph