Hillsborough Indepenent Panel Report – Highlights
I’ve just finished reading the Summary section of the recently published HIP while I should be working. I went into it prepared for some ridiculous stories of incompetence and probably willful perversion of justice after the fact, but I am genuinely shocked at the levels of both alluded to. It’s almost unbelievable — I find myself thinking “This stuff can’t actually happen in real life can it? This is a movie script”.
I highly recommend reading the document yourself instead of relying on whatever aspects of it the media will choose to focus on — I’ve pulled out what I personally found to be the most interesting items in the 26-page summary.
- The disclosed documents demonstrate that, following the 1981 incident, there was a breakdown in the relationship between SWFC and SYP. SWFC refused to accept the seriousness of the incident and held SYP responsible for the mismanagement of the crowd. SYP considered that the maximum capacity for the Leppings Lane terrace, set at 10,100, was too high, a view strongly contested by SWFC.
- Following the near tragedy in 1981, Hillsborough was not used for FA Cup semifinals until 1987. During this period the Leppings Lane terrace underwent a series of significant modifications and alterations, none of which led to a revised safety certificate. The introduction of further lateral fences created two central pens accessed via the tunnel beneath the West Stand. Recommendations to feed fans directly from designated turnstiles into each pen, thus monitoring precisely the distribution of fans between the pens, were not acted on because of anticipated costs to SWFC.
- From the documents disclosed to the Panel, key issues – positioning of safety barriers, elevation of the tunnel, adequacy of the perimeter fence gates – were not discussed or recorded at the annual safety inspections. Following the delayed kickoff at the 1987 FA Cup Semi-Final and the crushing at the 1988 FA Cup Semi-Final, it is evident that debriefings held by all parties were inadequate. Crucial information arising from these events was not shared within SYP, nor was it exchanged between SYP and other agencies. There is no record provided by SWFC of debriefings held between Club stewards and their managers. The Club denied knowledge of any crowd-related concerns arising from the 1987 or 1988 FA Cup Semi-Finals.
- In their 1989 statements some SYP officers referred to crushing in the outer concourse area at the 1988 FA Cup Semi-Final. They were asked by the SYP solicitors, Hammond Suddards, to reconsider and qualify their statements.
- There was a lack of basic necessary equipment where it was most needed, including airways, suction and swabs. While this equipment was provided on front-line ambulances, it remained in vehicles outside the stadium as crews were unaware of what was required on the pitch.
- A document disclosed to the Panel has revealed that an attempt was made to impugn the reputations of the deceased by carrying out Police National Computer checks on those with a non-zero alcohol level.
- Following the publication of the Taylor Report, the Prime Minister was briefed that ‘the defensive – and at times close to deceitful – behaviour by the senior officers in South Yorkshire sounds depressingly familiar’. The Government did not seek to protect the SYP Chief Constable and it was considered inevitable that he would resign. His resignation, however, was rejected by South Yorkshire Police Authority.
- The documents disclosed show that, considered alongside the restrictions placed by the Coroner on the examination of the evidence presented to the mini-inquests and the presentation of the pathologists’ medical opinion as incontrovertible, the imposition of the 3.15pm cut-off severely limited examination of the rescue, evacuation and treatment of those who died. This raised profound concerns regarding sufficiency of inquiry and examination of evidence.
- It was the Taylor Inquiry’s understanding that the ‘final versions’ of SYP statements differed from the initial ‘recollections’ only with regard to the removal of officers’ opinions. The Inquiry team considered there to be ‘absolutely no reason’ why opinion should be removed, but did not consider the process improper and did not raise any objection.
- The process of transition from self-taken recollections to formal Criminal Justice Act statements was presented as removing ‘conjecture’ and ‘opinion’ from the former, leaving only matters of ‘fact’ within the latter.Disclosed correspondence between SYP and the Force solicitors reveals that comments within officers’ statements ‘unhelpful to the Force’s case’ were altered, deleted or qualified (rewritten by the SYP team).
- Examination of officers’ statements shows that officers were discouraged from making criticisms of senior officers’ responses, their management and deficiencies in the SYP operational response: ‘key’ words and descriptions such as ‘chaotic’ were counselled against and, if included, were deleted.
- Some 116 of the 164 statements identified for substantive amendment were amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to SYP
- Detective Chief Superintendent Nick Foster of the WMP investigation team informed the Stuart-Smith Scrutiny that in five out of a sample of six amended statements material should not have been removed. In one case he ‘question[ed] the objectivity … of the person vetting’. He considered that the investigation had not been affected by the deletions made.
- As the severity of the disaster was becoming apparent, SYP Match Commander, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, told a falsehood to senior officials that Liverpool fans had broken into the stadium and caused an inrush into the central pens thus causing the fatal crush. While later discredited, this unfounded allegation was broadcast internationally and was the first explanation of the cause of the disaster to enter the public domain.
- Given the broader press reporting of the allegations, the Panel sought to establish their origins. Documents disclosed to the Panel show that the allegations were filed by White’s News Agency, a Sheffield-based company. They were based on meetings over three days between agency staff and several police officers, together with interviews with Irvine Patnick MP and the South Yorkshire Police Federation Secretary, Paul Middup.
- Months after the disaster White’s News Agency confirmed to the London Evening Standard that its filed stories originated from ‘unsolicited’ allegations made by ‘high ranking’ SYP officers to agency ‘partners’. There were four separate police sources plus the interview with Mr Patnick. Together these sources were considered sufficient verification for the story to be considered factually accurate and it was distributed accordingly.
- At the meeting [of Police Federation members] police officers repeated many of the allegations published in the media. The Chief Constable joined the meeting and advised that the SYP case had to be pulled together and given to the Inquiry. A ‘defence’ had to be prepared and a ‘rock solid story’ presented. He believed that the Force would be ‘exonerated’ by the Taylor Inquiry and considered that ‘blame’ should be directed towards ‘drunken ticketless individuals’.?
Getting to the end of the summary is only 26 pages, it’s well written and concise so there’s really no excuse not to go an educate yourself … http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/report/