Police and emergency services made “strenuous attempts” to deflect the blame for the Hillsborough disaster onto innocent fans, newly published documents about the tragedy revealed today.
The disclosures were made by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has been overseeing the release of thousands of official documents relating to Britain’s deadliest sporting disaster.
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.”
Ninety six Liverpool supporters died in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989 where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.
Introducing the report to the Hillsborough families at the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, Bishop James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool and chairman of the panel, said: “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. It has been a frustrating and painful experience adding to their grief.
“In spite of all the investigations they have sensed that their search for truth and justice has been thwarted and that no-one has been held accountable.
“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 their were strenuous attempts to deflect the blame onto the fans. The panel’s detailed report shows how vulnerable victims, survivors and their families are when transparency and accountability are compromised.
“My colleagues and I were from the start of our work impressed by the dignified determination of the families.”
He added: “The panel produces this report without any presumption of where it will lead. But it does so in the profound hope that greater transparency will bring to the families and to the wider public a greater understanding of the tragedy and its aftermath.
“For it is only with this transparency that the families and survivors, who have behaved with such dignity, can with some sense of truth and justice cherish the memory of their 96 loved ones.”