Shocking proof of systematic failures of the police is revealed as victim families gain access to unpublished documents. Newly released records show how facts were manipulated to push the blame from police to Liverpool supporters.
After thorough analysis by Hillsborough Independent Panel led by bishop of Liverpool, some 400,000 pages of reports – many unpublished – are available for viewing to families of 96 supporters who died at Hillsborough.
All the gathered material was prepared by 80 institutions, including the Government, police, emergency services, Sheffield City Council and the South Yorkshire coroner. Before today’s release most were secret and not available to the public, despite families and survivors campaigning constantly to change that.
What emerges from early comments is the shocking manipulation on testimonies and facts to ensure that South Yorkshire Police emerged from the tragedy in a significantly more positive light, while supporters in quite the opposite one.
As an example, statements from officers present on that day were altered numerous times, losing phrases that gave praise to fans who were desperately saving others. Words of police chaos, lack of communication, no leadership or strategy were also removed before reports were handed over to superiors and eventually Lord Justice Taylor.
Documents will be available only to families for now, later to be revealed by Prime Minister David Cameron to members of the House of Commons. After that all documents are to be uploaded online and available for unlimited viewing to everyone.
Major English media call the manipulation “apparent” and mention of expectancy of justice. Below a comment by James Lawton, Chief Sports Writer of “Independent”, who witnessed Hillsborough:
“You do not need to have lost a relative to feel this so intensely. It was sufficient to walk out on that field - as I did on that terrible afternoon - when there was no sight of any ambulances but just desperate pockets of fans fighting to save so many lives which were ebbing away before their eyes.
“They were, presumably, these fans improvising stretchers out of advertising hoardings, the same ones who were accused of urinating on ambulance men and robbing the dead. Of all the lies and evasions of responsibility that day these were the most outrageous, and have inevitably lingered most poisonously, but the big and central one was that most blame could be attached to hooligan behaviour.
“The report of Lord Taylor placed the burden of blame on the failures of the police - and no-one who was present to see the nightmare unfold could argue with that. Yet 21 years on, we still wait for that official atonement. We still wait for the word sorry.
“That it may come today, so belatedly, is no reason for celebration. But this does not make in any less a requirement of decency - or a long over-due debt to the innocent dead.”