PM apologises for Hillsborough injustice

Published Wednesday, 12 September 2012
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Prime Minister David Cameron has apologised to the families of the 96 people killed in a crush at a football match in Hillsborough Stadium, 23 years after the disaster.

PM apologises for Hillsborough injustice
A tribute to the Hillsborough victims on the Bill Shankly gates at Anfield. (© Getty)

Campaigners have long fought to clear the fans of any blame for what happened back in April 1989, with evidence unveiled on Wednesday finding reports of disorder among fans to be completely false.

"April 15th 1989 will forever be etched on the minds of everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club," a club statement said.

"It was a day when 96 supporters attended a football match and never came home. After 23 long and painful years, our fans have finally been fully exonerated of all blame."

Bishop of Liverpool James Jones chaired the panel tasked with re-investigating Hillsborough and he introduced the report findings to the victims' families at the city's Anglican Cathedral on Wednesday.

"For nearly a quarter of a century the families of the 96 and the survivors of Hillsborough have nursed an open wound waiting for answers to unresolved questions," he said.

"The documents disclosed to and analysed by the panel show that the tragedy should never have happened."

Today, the world knows what we have always known.

Liverpool FC

One the day in question, Liverpool FC were due to play Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final on neutral turf - Sheffield Wednesday's ground, Hillsborough.

But the stadium did not have the capacity to deal with the volume of fans and a catalogue of errors led to serious over-crowing at the Leppings Lane End, with people trapped due to the steel fences.

Some escaped over the fences onto the pitch, where the referee had called for the game to be abandoned, while others were hauled to safety by fellow fans in the stand directly above them.

Many of those killed were suffocated where they stood.

Over 700 fans were injured, around 300 of them hospitalised. Of the 96 who lost their lives, the youngest was just ten-years-old - a cousin of Steven Gerrard.

"The courage and dignity shown by the Hillsborough families and survivors is an example to all of us," the current Liverpool captain said.

"Speaking as someone whose family directly suffered, I know the pain and hurt will remain.

"However, I hope that today's report helps bring some comfort, now that everyone knows what happened on that day."

Some media outlets at the time reported that fans had been at fault and that drunken violence continued even as people lay dying on the pitch, with looting of bodies said to have been rife.

Wednesday's report finally exposed that as not only wrong, but part of a concerted effort by police to cover up the shortcomings of their own response operation and to pin the blame on the fans.

"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," David Cameron said.

"The families were right."

Mr Cameron told the House of Commons that the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel were deeply distressing.

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.

Prime Minister David Cameron

The report highlighted how lessons had not been learned from a crush at the same venue a year earlier, but more disturbing was the evidence that lives could have been saved.

The panel also found that police officers conducted background checks on the victims and that the coroner carried out blood alcohol tests, even on children, all in a bid to discredit the football fans.

Chief Constable David Crompton has apologised on behalf of South Yorkshire Police, stating that "disgraceful lies were told" and "police lost control".

The Sun newspaper was singled out during the Prime Minister's statement, over its sensationalising of the allegations which have now proven to be false.

The paper's then editor Kelvin MacKenzie made the decision to headline the front page spread with the banner: "The Truth".

While he has previously said he was not sorry for the story coverage, he has now apologised.

"It has taken more than two decades, 400,000 documents and a two-year inquiry to discover to my horror that it would have far more accurate had I written the headline 'The Lies' rather than 'The Truth'," Mr MacKenzie said.

"I published in good faith and I am sorry that it was so wrong."

Trevor Hicks from the Hillsborough Families Support Group dismissed the statement as "too little, too late" from a "lowlife - clever lowlife, but lowlife".

The Sheffield-based news agency from which the allegations originated also issued a statement.

"The agency had no control over how the allegations were presented and were shocked by the way the story was presented by the Sun," it said.

"Other newspapers reported the allegations in a different way.

"We welcome the publication of all documents relating to the Hillsborough tragedy and hope it brings some measure of closure for those affected. We have no further comment to make."

Sheffield Wednesday FC has offered an apology and condolences on behalf of the club to all those affected by the Hillsborough disaster.

"The thoughts of everyone at Sheffield Wednesday FC remain with the 96 Liverpool supporters who lost their lives, their families, and the wider Liverpool community who have all been affected so deeply by the disaster of 23 years ago," a statement said.

The truth is out today, justice starts tomorrow.

Trevor Hicks, Hillsborough Families Support Group

Former Northern Ireland international and Liverpool player Jim Magilton was at Hillsborough on the day of the tragedy.

Speaking ahead of the report's publication on Wednesday, he had told U105 that all the families and survivors wanted was "someone to stand up and say it wasn't their fault".

He recalled how events had unfolded and the impact on the club.

"It was pretty horrific and when you arrived back at Liverpool, you really understood the enormity of the whole situation," he said.

"Kenny Dalglish (then manager) took it very personally, as we all did.

"And anyone that was part of the club at the time did anything they could do to help ease the suffering of the families and anyone else who was in and around the stadium that day."

Further to the statement from the club, Liverpool FC chairman Tom Werner added: "On behalf of myself, John (Henry) and everyone at the club, I would like to extend our thoughts and prayers on this hugely significant and deeply emotional day to everyone affected by the Hillsborough disaster.

"Today the world has heard the real truth about what happened at Hillsborough.

"As a football club, we will continue to remember those who died and support the families who lost loved ones on that terrible day."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
2 Comments
Sam in Belfast wrote (685 days ago):
Better late than never. The english government do take a very long time to apologise for the big mistakes they make along with the their security forces, as we all well know.
hevs in belfast wrote (686 days ago):
GOD BLESS THEM,THEY"LL NEVER WALK ALONE.
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