Hillsborough criminal charges considered possible

26 August 2013

Wednesday's report revealed the extent of the police cover up following the disaster the panel having had unrestricted access to 450,000 documents over the last three years.  The report confirmed Lord Justice Taylor's finding in August 1989 that the main reason for the disaster was 'a failure in police control'. 

However, in addition the report also revealed that there were ‘multiple failures’ in other emergency services and public bodies, which also contributed to the death toll.  Also, serious failings at the inquests and reviews that followed have only served to extend the time that the families of the victims have had to wait until a full report was able to be published.

Michael Mansfield QC who acts on behalf of the HillsboroughFamilySupportGroup (HFSG) stated "if David Cameron means what he says and justice has to follow truth, then they have a responsibility today to assess not just the question of unlawful killing but the cover up and the perversion of the course of justice".  Legal representatives for the families of the 96 victims crushed to death at theLeppings Laneend of the ground said that South Yorkshire Police, the City Council and Sheffield Wednesday FC could all face charges for corporate manslaughter.

The panel concluded that as many as 41 victims of the 1989 disaster might have been saved had the emergency response been better.  Perhaps most shocking, they found that 116 of the 164 police statements taken after the incident were amended to benefit South Yorkshire Police and that South Yorkshire Ambulance Service had also done likewise to deflect criticism from themselves. 

The reports also concluded that the earlier inquest which had imposed, a ‘cut off time’ of 3.15pm, had 'lead to the mistaken belief that an effective emergency services intervention could not have saved lives'.  The Coroner had ordered that blood alcohol levels be taken for each of the deceased.  The panel found that the weight placed on alcohol levels was 'inappropriate and misleading' and the pattern of alcohol consumption 'unremarkable'.  The report concludes that blood alcohol levels were taken from survivors for no medical reason that can be identified and the fact that checks were made on the deceased as to whether or not they had criminal records was an attempt to blacken the reputation of the deceased.  Margaret Aspinal’s son James was 18 when he died in the disaster.  Ms Aspinal is the chair of the HFSG and said "what was new and a shock was how many of them could have been saved.  That is the most important thing.  I will go home and wonder is James is one of them.  They were the liars and we were the truthful ones, we were the innocent.  We will always be the losers at Hillsborough". 

In the Commons David Cameron stated that he was 'profoundly sorry' on behalf of the government for what was described by the former Lord Chancellor Charles, Falconer as a 'concerted conspiracy to withhold the truth'.  The disaster claimed the lives of 96 men, women and children, the vast majority of whom were under the age of 30. Falconer is advising the families and said that he expected the Attorney General to order a new inquest saying "It is absolutely clear there is no other step he can take".  Mr Cameron said "with the weight of the new evidence in the report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96.  On behalf of the Government and indeed of our country I am profoundly sorry that this double injustice has been left uncorrected for so long".

A huge source of hurt for the families and Liverpool fans in general has been the front page headline article issued by the Sun entitled 'The Truth' which was during the period of Kelvin MacKenzie's editorship.  On Wednesday Mr MacKenzie offered 'profuse apologies' for the first time.  In the days following the disaster, the story circulated that drunken Liverpool fans had caused the disaster by forcing a gate open and this was followed up by allegations published in The Sun Article thatLiverpoolfans had stolen from the dead and had interfered with rescue attempts by the emergency services.  Such was the anger ofLiverpoolfans that it lead to a boycott of the paper on Merseyside that continues to this day.

The panel found that the origin of the untrue claims was a Sheffield news agency who had been given the information by four seniorSouth Yorkshirepolice officers, a South Yorkshire Police Federation spokesperson and a local MP, Irvine Patnick. The report also describes a meeting at which the then Chief Constable said that officers should not talk to the media and should 'prepare a rock solid story'.  He said that the force needed to take control of the narrative presented to the enquiry and that 'if anybody should be blamed, it should be the drunken, ticketless individuals'.

Trevor Hicks, who lost two daughters at Hillsborough and is president of the HFSG said "when you get the Chief Constable sitting down with his trade union to cobble together a solid story, then you know we have reached a new depth of depravity.  There were two disasters at Hillsborough.  The one on the day and the one afterwards.  It was not only a disaster, it was a contrived manipulated vengeful and spiteful attempt to shift the blame".  

The report also outlined the repeated warnings that were given over the safety of the ground and which were ignored and has revealed a Health and Safety Executive report which concluded that neither the club nor the council had acted on warnings from a series of incidents in previous years.  

The current editor of the Sun newspaper, Dominic Mohan, issued an apology on it's front page following the publication of the report under the headline 'The Real Truth'.  Mr Mohan said "23 years ago the Sun newspaper made a terrible mistake.  We published an inaccurate offensive story about that event at Hillsborough, we said it was the truth – it wasn't.  The Hillsborough Independent panel has now established what really happened that day.  It is an appalling story and at the heart of it are the police's attempts to smearLiverpoolfans.  It is a version of events that 23 years ago the Sun went along with and for that we are deeply ashamed and profoundly sorry.  We have co-operated fully with the Hillsborough Independent Panel".  Mr MacKenzie the author of the offending headline apologised saying that he had been 'totally mislead' but his apology was rejected by Trevor Hicks of the HFSG who said that it was "too little, too late".

There are some things which can never been forgiven or forgotten.