Hillsborough: 23 years on, finally an apology for the cover-up

PM apologises to families while documents reveal the 3.15pm cut off for assisting dead was wrong

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The Independent Football

In highly-charged Commons scenes, David Cameron offered a “profound” apology to the families of the 96 Hillsborough victims for the catastrophic mistakes that led to their deaths, the attempts to suggest that Liverpool supporters were to blame for the tragedy, and the 23-year wait to establish the truth.

MPs of all parties expressed their horror and shock at the catalogue of errors revealed by today’s report and at the extent of the efforts to cover them up.

There were gasps in the chamber and MPs appeared close to tears as Mr Cameron revealed that dozens of fans might have survived the fatal crush had they received swifter medical attention. Many were also clearly stunned when the Prime Minister said a former MP had conspired with police to distort the official record on what had happened at Hillsborough.

Mr Cameron said: “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. Indeed the new evidence we are presented with today makes clear these families have suffered a double injustice.”

He pointed to “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 “the injustice of the denigration of the deceased, that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths”.

Mr Cameron went on: “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.”

The Prime Minister said the names of the 96 victims had been cleared as he condemned efforts to smear the fans who had died. He stressed that their families had been right to suspect that “some of the authorities attempted to create a completely unjust account of events”.

He told the Commons: “A narrative about hooliganism on that day was created which led many in the country to accept that it was somehow a grey area. Today’s report is black and white. The Liverpool fans ‘were not the cause of the disaster’.

Mr Cameron said the Sun’s coverage of the tragedy was “clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt” and added that the source for “these despicable untruths” was a Sheffield news agency reporting conversations between South Yorkshire Police and Sir Irvine Patnick, the then Tory MP for Sheffield Hallam.

The Prime Minister’s aides sack he had been deeply shocked when he received the report’s conclusions and had asked Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, to investigate as a matter of urgency whether to ask the High Court to order fresh inquests into the Hillsborough victims.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, also apologised as he admitted to the “uncomfortable truth” that his party should have done more during its 13 years in office to get to truth of the events of 15 April 1989.

Andy Burnham, the former Labour minister who set up the independent Hillsborough panel, said: “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.”

Steve Rotheram, the MP for Liverpool Walton, who witnessed the tragedy, said: “Finally we have the undeniable truth, a truth we know now means many innocent people who could and should have been saved, a truth that unequivocally confirms Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster and drink was not a significant factor.

“A truth that both vindicates and validates the 23-year campaign for truth and justice, despite the criticism levelled at us as a self-pity city.”