NEW inquests for the 96 Liverpool supporters killed in the
Hillsborough disaster could be held after an independent panel,
chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones,
revealed that 41 of the victims might have survived with better
The panel was highly critical of the police, who, at the 1989 FA
Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, at the
neutral Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, had filtered fans into
two already overcrowded pens. A barrier had collapsed, and in the
ensuing crush, 96 fans had been killed and 766 injured.
The coroner at the original inquests had refused to hear
evidence about what happened after 3.15 p.m. on the day of the
tragedy, ruling that all the victims were either dead or beyond
recovery by that time. This went unchallenged in Lord Justice
Taylor's 1990 report.
But, by examining the coroners' reports on each of the victims,
the Hillsborough Independent Panel found that almost half might
Dr Bill Kirkup, associate chief medical officer in the
Department of Health, who served on the panel, said: "In total, 41
people had the potential to survive after the period of 3.15. What
I can't say is how many of those could have been saved. But what I
can say is that the potential is of that order of magnitude."
The panel was established by the previous government to gather
and review evidence, including previously classified documents.
More than 450,000 pages of documents from more than 80
organisations and individuals have now been made public by the
panel, alongside a 395-page detailed analysis.
The Prime Minister told MPs on Wednesday afternoon that the
Attorney General would consider the report "as soon as possible",
before deciding whether to ask the High Court to overturn the
David Cameron said that he was "profoundly sorry" for what he
called the "double injustice" suffered by the victims' families:
"the injustice of the appalling events, the failure of the state to
protect their loved ones, and the indefensible wait to get the
truth, and then the injustice of the denigration of the deceased -
that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths".
He issued a profound apology "on behalf of the Government and
the whole country".
The panel in Liverpool Cathedral on Wednesday
The panel in Liverpool Cathedral on Wednesday
Relatives of the victims spent the day in a series of day-long
meetings at Liverpool Cathedral, at which they were briefed on the
People in Liverpool observed a two-minute silence as a mark of
respect to those who were killed. During the silence, held at 3.06
p.m., the time when the game was halted, church bells tolled 96
Bishop Jones said: "We have conducted this day very
thoughtfully, so that the dignity of the families will be
protected; so they can assimilate what we know will be very
difficult material, and that they will not be short-changed in any
"On this panel, we all bring different expertise. The expertise
I bring is as a pastor, and somebody who is committed to a just and
fair world. That lies at the heart of the work we're doing in the
panel: we have been looking for truth and justice."
On Wednesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a brief
statement: "I want to say, on behalf of the Bishops, that our
thoughts and prayers are very much with the people of Liverpool and
all affected by the Hillsborough tragedy on this day when the
report is released. The Bishop of Liverpool has done a great
service in steering this work to a conclusion and helping us as a
nation to confront this deeply traumatic memory."
Afterwards, the chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group,
Margaret Aspinall, whose son James was killed in the disaster,
welcomed the report: "They have exonerated all our fans. They have
made our city proud today, but, most of all, they have made the 96
rest in peace for the first time."
A solicitor for the Hillsborough Family Support Group said that
the panel's work showed the Hillsborough disaster was "the biggest
cover-up in British legal history".
The report revealed that 164 police statements had been
"significantly amended" after the event, and "negative comments"
about the police operation had been removed from 116 of them.
The panel concluded that the disaster could have been avoided if
known problems with the Leppings Lane entrance to the stadium had
been taken into account.
Incidents of overcrowding in 1981 and 1987, and earlier in 1989,
had alerted the authorities to the potential danger. "The risks
were known, and the crush in 1989 was foreseeable," the report
The panel was not a public inquiry, and did not hear from
witnesses or take evidence; its terms of reference precluded it
from making recommendations. But its findings will now be
considered by the Government. Family members say that they hope
criminal prosecutions for perverting the course of justice, or even
unlawful killing, may follow.
The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, said yesterday
that "many in the diocese will have their own difficult
memories of 15 April 1989 and the days which followed". A
prayer for local churches to use is posted on the diocesan website.
Question of the Week:
Should the authorities prosecute those whose actions are thought to
have contributed to the death toll?