Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 9:58 pm Post subject: Hillsborough
I'm sure this story won't be that well known to most people outside the UK. It was a disaster which killed 96 Liverpool FC fans in 1989 when lack of control by the stadium and police caused too many people to be allowed into too small an area.
This pdf gives a detailed account of how and why it happened.
Remembering Hillsborough Twenty Years On
April 10, 2009
Hillsborough. The word is tough to write, even harder to say out loud. Twenty years have passed since that day. A huge number of football fans going to games this week will not even have been born when the 1989 FA Cup semi-final ended in tragedy. Yet for some, that sunny April day has never ended.
I am one of the lucky ones. On April 15, 1989, I was a 17-year-old with a severe dose of tonsillitis. So bad that my mum told me I couldn't go to the match. Within 20 minutes I had swapped my terrace ticket for a seat in the stands. Mum, happy I wouldn't be on my feet for 90 minutes, relented. Dad drove, me and three mates sat in the van. We got stuck in traffic somewhere near Glossop. The A57 Snake Pass was busier than we expected and the journey from L47 to S6 took almost three hours.
We were not drunk. We were not ticketless. We did not rush the gate. Yet we walked into that stadium 20 minutes or so before kick-off without having to take our tickets from our pockets. We walked through a gate opened by South Yorkshire police officers. A gate, it would later be falsely claimed, had been forced open by ticketless fans. Once inside the ground the terrace appeared to be accessible only via a narrow tunnel. I could have gone with the others down that tunnel, I could have disobeyed Mum.
From my seat in the stand I had a great view. Fifteen minutes later I was on the pitch. It was not a pitch invasion. I had little idea what was happening. The shouts and screams told me it was bad. I do not remember seeing bodies, just clothes. The pitch was covered. I remember asking myself: "Why would anyone not know they had lost a shoe?"
At the same time my Dad was lying prostrate on the section of terrace next to pens three and four. He had been crushed so badly his heart had developed an irregular beat. He would later need some serious medical attention. His life had been saved by a crash barrier buckling, the pressure relieved just in time. Those lying beneath him were not so lucky. And they were the memories that would haunt him as he waited 11 years for his compensation claim to be heard.
He was lifted over the carnage to safety by other fans. Untrained, blindly doing what they could to save lives. As the police looked on. Dad managed to get out of the stadium, praying, he later told me, he would see me and the lads standing at the agreed meeting point. We were all there. Dad went to a local shop to find a phone. Mum must have been worried.
He found a bike shop. At one end was a queue of about six fans, waiting patiently as the shop assistant asked each one in turn for a phone number, which he would dial for them. Next to Dad was the shop owner, demonstrating a bike to a grandmother. Sirens wailed outside. "I'm not sure she'll like that shade of green," Dad remembers her saying.
It is only when you actually sit down to begin a piece like this that the sheer ludicrousness of the Hillsborough aftermath becomes apparent. Imagine making an error at work, a mistake of such monumental incompetence it set in motion a chain of events which resulted in someone's death. During the subsequent investigation you lie about your decision-making, you deflect blame onto the victim and leak misleading information to the press. But you are caught out. An official inquiry blames you and those in your charge for the tragic accident. You were out of your depth, it says.
Yet there is no punishment. This is what happened 20 years ago. But it was 96 times more serious. The reason for the Hillsborough disaster was the "failure of police control", concluded Lord Justice Taylor. And so it is nothing short of astonishing that 20 years on, not a single person has been convicted of any criminal offence for the part they played in the deaths of so many innocents.
The Taylor Report which followed Hillsborough had an immense impact on British football. It was most obvious in the total transformation of British stadia. Terraces disappeared within five seasons and new safety practices put in place. Thankfully Taylor also recommended the proposed ID card system for fans be scrapped. Imagine the chaos if every fan had to produce identification at the turnstile. While some lag behind - last month's disaster at an Ivory Coast stadium reminded us of that - British football fans have never had it so good. New stadiums. Comfortable seats, café lattes and paninis. Even the police are more relaxed.
But never forget, there was a price to pay for your 21st century viewing. And it could have been you.
Fans March To Demand Hillsborough Arrests June 20, 2009
Families of Hillsborough victims have marched on Downing Street to demanding a fresh criminal investigation into the tragedy. Fans queue to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster at Anfield.
The march, organised by the March4Justice campaign, delivered a petition with more than 39,000 signatures. It asks the Prime Minister to investigate whether criminal charges can be brought against those responsible for the tragedy. The petition was handed in by five relatives of the dead and survivor Steve Hart.
Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the tragedy, said: "We have waited 20 years for the truth - that is 20 years too long. What this is all about for us is the release of police and emergency service documents which are what will help us understand what happened that day. There are probably 800 boxes of documents alone which have not been seen - it sickens me that these have not yet been handed over."
In addition to calls for an investigation, campaigners want the authorities to recognise that not all the victims were dead by 3.15pm. They are also calling for the release of 300 boxes of information on the tragedy that have been kept from the public eye. If the files are not released early, they will not become public for
Culture secretary sorry for 'Hillsborough hooliganism' remarks Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt apologises for appearing to blame Hillsborough disaster on football hooligans
28 Jun 2010 02:01
By Matthew Champion.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised after appearing to blame the Hillsborough disaster on football hooligans. Mr Hunt was giving an interview to Sky News on Monday morning reflecting on England's World Cup exit when he expressed satisfaction at the good behaviour of English fans in South Africa.
The Cabinet minister said he was "incredibly encouraged by the example set by the England fans. I mean, not a single arrest for a football-related offence, and the terrible problems that we had in Heysel and Hillsborough in the 1980s seem now to be behind us".
Ninety-six people died in the Hillsborough disaster of April 1989, when fans at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's ground were caught in a lethal crush. Lord Chief Justice Taylor found the main cause of the deaths of the victims - all of whom were Liverpool fans - was down to the failure of police crowd control.
Mr Hunt later retracted the comments on his blog. "I know that fan unrest played no part in the terrible events of April 1989 and I apologise to Liverpool fans and the families of those killed and injured in the Hillsborough disaster if my comments caused any offence," he wrote.
The Heysel disaster saw 39 people killed when Liverpool fans broke a perimeter fence in the European Cup final between their team and Juventus. Pressure caused by escaping fans lead to a section of the Brussels stadium wall collapsing. Thirty-two of the victims were Juventus fans. The incident saw English football teams banned from European competition until 1990-91, while Liverpool were banned for one further year.
Hillsborough report: 41 of the 96 dead 'had potential to survive' A panel investigating the Hillsborough disaster has concluded that 41 of the 96 people who died in the tragedy might have survived had the response of the emergency services been adequate.
Police made 'strenuous efforts' to blame fans
Paul Kelso and Martin Beckford
12 Sep 2012
An independent report into the Hillsborough stadium disaster has concluded that South Yorkshire Police and the ambulance service made "strenuous attempts to deflect blame" for the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters onto the fans. Dr Bill Kirkup, a member of the panel, told a press conference 41 of the 96 fans who died had "evidence that they had potential to survive after the period of 3.15pm" if the emergency response had been adequate. An original inquest ruled that all those who lost their lives were dead or brain dead by 3.15pm, meaning the failings of the emergency services after that time were not scrutinised.
Dr Kirkup said: "Twenty eight people had definite evidence that they didn't have obstruction of the bloodflow, 16 people had definite evidence of heart and lungs continuing to function for a prolonged period after the crush. In total 41 therefore had evidence that they had potential to survive after the period of 3.15. What I can't say is how many of them could, in actuality, have been saved. But I can say is that, potentially, it was in that order of magnitude."
The 394-page report concludes that police and ambulance service statements were doctored in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the failings of crowd control that were the primary cause of the disaster in April 1989. The Hillsborough Independent Panel also raises "profound concerns about the conduct an appropriateness of the inquests".
The report concludes that the decision of the coroner to rule that all 96 victims died in the same way, and to impose a 3.15pm cut-off time on the inquest, was "unsustainable". The panel said there was evidence that a number of those that died were alive after the 3.15pm cut-off. The original inquest recorded 96 cases of accidental death, but the families of the deceased have called for those verdicts to be quashed.
In the aftermath, the police claimed that violent behaviour by drunken Liverpool supporters who arrived without tickets was the primary cause of the disaster. Having reviewed more than 450,000 previously unseen documents, the panel concludes: "The evidence shows conclusively that Liverpool fans neither caused nor contributed to the deaths of 96 men, women and children".
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 documents disclosed to the panel also revealed that further attempts were made to "impugn the reputations of the deceased by carrying out Police National Computer checks on those with a non-zero alcohol level." There is no record of these tests or their results in the medical notes of the survivors and in some there was "no apparent medical reason for the test". The extent of this testing remains unknown, the report says.
The report also says: "There was no evidence to support the proposition that alcohol played any part in the genesis of the disaster and it is regrettable that those in positions of responsibility created and promoted a portrayal of drunkenness as contributing to the occurrence of the disaster and the ensuing loss of life without substantiating the evidence." The weight placed on alcohol levels in the Coroner's summing up was "inappropriate and misleading", the panel found.
The chairman of the panel, the Bishop of Liverpool the Rt Rev James Jones, said: "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 there were strenuous attempts to deflect the blame onto the fans. The panels detailed reports shows how vulnerable victims, survivors and their families are when transparency and accountability are compromised."
Prime Minister David Cameron offered a "profound" apology to the families of the 96 people who died, telling the House of Commons that today's report made clear that "the Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster". Mr Cameron said that Attorney General Dominic Grieve will review the report as quickly as possible in order to decide whether to apply to the High Court to quash the original, flawed inquest and order a new one. It will be for the court to make the final decision.
Today's report showed that the Hillsborough families had suffered a "double injustice", both in the "failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth", and in the efforts to denigrate the deceased and suggest that they were "somehow at fault for their own deaths", said Mr Cameron. He told MPs: "With the weight of the new evidence in this Report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years. On behalf of the Government - and indeed our country - I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long."
Mr Cameron said today: "The families have long believed that some of the authorities attempted to create a completely unjust account of events that sought to blame the fans for what happened. The families were right. The evidence in today's report includes briefings to the media and attempts by the police to change the record of events."
There were cries of "Shame!" as Mr Cameron outlined how The Sun's report was "clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt". The Prime Minister added: "It was wrong that the responsible authorities knew Hillsborough did not meet minimum safety standards and yet still allowed the match to go ahead. It was wrong that the families have had to wait for so long - and fight so hard - just to get to the truth, and it was wrong that the police changed the records of what happened and tried to blame the fans."
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, told the Commons: "It comes far too late for many of course but finally the full horror of Hillsborough has been revealed. A catalogue of negligence, appalling failure and sheer mendacity. A tragedy that should have been prevented, lives that should have been saved. Devastating truths made far worse not better for the passing of time; the crude 3.15pm cut-off, with no legal, medical or moral justification; parents only hearing today what happened to their children - because people whose job it was to protect them then turned against the victims and the bereaved to protect themselves.
"A monumental cover-up and a sickening campaign of vilification against victims, grieving families, traumatised survivors and the city in shock. Do you agree with me that today the names of the 96 and of the Liverpool supporters who were at Hillsborough have been emphatically cleared? And in thanking you and the Home Secretary for supporting the disclosure process I initiated, can I ask you to continue to work with us to right these wrongs and at long last to bring justice for the 96?"
Mr Cameron replied: "I absolutely will continue to work with you on this issue, I think it is right the names of the 96 have been cleared. Above all I would like to pay tribute to the work you have put in with huge passion and dedication on this issue. I think it was a brave and right decision to set up the panel, not easy when there have been previous inquiries, previous judicial reviews and the rest of it, but it was undoubtedly the right decision.
"Also, I think what you have done to help people understand what I call the nature of this double injustice - an injustice about the facts, about the dreadful things that happened that were not properly accounted for, but also the injustice of narrative, the injustice of an inaccurate version put around, which as you put it quite rightly has made the passage of time make things worse not better."
Labour leader Ed Miliband admitted his party should have done more during its 13 years in office from 1997 to 2010 to uncover the truth. The Labour leader accused some media of "aiding and abetting" the police cover-up and called on The Sun newspaper to apologise for its story claiming Liverpool fans urinated on and stole from dead bodies.
Speaking at a press conference following the disclosure of the report the Bishop of Liverpool said that when the families of those who died heard the overview of the report "they stood to applaud what they had received". The press were then asked to stand for a moment of silence.
Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign welcomed the apology made by Prime Minister David Cameron and called for a new inquest. She told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "Of course (the apology) is welcome, because it is an acknowledgement that Liverpool, the bereaved families and the fans have been telling the truth for years and yet have been considered liars." She added: "Without doubt the inquest verdicts have to be quashed. David Cameron batted this back to the Attorney General. The Attorney General needs to surely, with the evidence presented to him today and the evidence previously presented to him, must quash the inquest verdicts in all cases. With the clear evidence that fans could have been saved - and the evidence is there - he needs to give all of those 96 victims their right under law, the right to a fair hearing. It needs a full inquiry into how they died."
Asked if she believed criminal charges should now be brought, Ms Coleman said: "I do, because all the evidence today shows that South Yorkshire Police and people in South Yorkshire Police lied and operated a cover-up."
It would be great to see at least a few people sent to jail for their parts in this tragedy.
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