British Prime Minister David Cameron has apologised for failures and cover-ups in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans died after a crowd crush in a stadium in Sheffield.
Cameron made the apology after the release of an independent report into previously unseen documents about the tragedy.
“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,’‘ he said.
‘‘Indeed, the new evidence that we are presented with today makes it clear in my view that these families have suffered a double injustice. The injustice of the appalling events, the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth, and then the injustice of the denigration of the deceased, that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths”.
The report was compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has been closely examining more than 450,000 pages of documents for the past 18 months.
The report said in a bid to cover up their own failings, police had sought to blame the Liverpool fans, portraying them as aggressive, drunk, ticketless and determined to gain entry into the already crowded stadium.
Mr Cameron said: “This appalling death toll of so many loved ones lost was compounded by an attempt to blame the victims. A narrative about hooliganism on that day was created which led many in the country to accept that somehow it was a grey area. Today’s report is black and white. The Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster.”
The real danger at Hillsborough lay in the emergency services’ poor planning and a stadium that failed to meet minimum safety standards, the report said. Its capacity was overstated and previous crushes at Hillsborough had been ignored.
Mr Cameron told the House of Commons that swifter response from emergency services could have saved lives after the independent panel’s review found documents which show a delay from the emergency services when people were being crushed.
Among other findings the report uncovered evidence that rescue attempts were held back by failures of leadership and co-ordination.
The disaster occurred during a semi-final FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield. The 96 people who died were all Liverpool fans. It was a tragedy that changed the face of English football and led to a new era of modern, all-seated stadiums.