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"41 people might have survived" - the Hillsborough report's findings

“The truth is out today and the justice starts tomorrow,” says the chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group following the report of an independent panel examining 450,000 documents related to the disaster.

THE REPORT BY the independent panel tasked with scrutinising all documents pertaining to the Hillsborough stadium disaster has been released today and contains a number of revelations.

The panel, chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool the Reverend James Jones, has overseen the examination of 450,000 documents related to the disaster and their publication today along with its report.

The disaster at the Sheffield football stadium led to deaths of 96 people in a crush at the Leppings Lane end of the ground with hundreds more injured. An inquiry later found that the failure of police crowd control was the main cause of the disaster.

In the years that followed it has emerged that officers from South Yorkshire Police conspired to cover-up their involvement in the disaster and lay the blame at the foot of the fans in order to deflect criticism from themselves.

No one has ever been criminally prosecuted for what happened on 15 April 1989.

In a statement to the House of Commons today, Prime Minister David Cameron said that he was “profoundly sorry” for what he described as a “double injustice” for the families of those that died.

Here are a few of the key findings of the report published today and which you can read in full here.

Emergency response

  • Neither South Yorkshire Police nor the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service fully activiated their major incident procedure as the disaster unfolded on the afternoon of 15 April 1989.
  • Only two major Sheffield hospitals correctly activated their major incident procedures.
  • A lack of activation of such procedures “significantly constrained” an effective and appropriate response to the disaster.
  • The panel found that there was “clear and repeated evidence of failures” in the emergency response.
  • Many junior ambulance staff and police officers as well as fans attempted resuscitation and to transfer casualties but there was no “triage” and a lack of “basic necessary equipment” for medical treatment of casualties.
  • The report states that 28 of those who died had no obstruction to their blood flow and that 31 people’s heart and lungs continued to function after the 3.15pm cut-off point (see more below).
  • In a press conference, the panel said that 41 people had the potential to survive after the 3.15pm cut-off point.
  • The panel said that on the evidence from the documents disclosed some of those who were partially asphyxiated in the crush survived for a significant period after 3.15pm.

Police cover-up/media briefing

  • The panel found that among the main flaws in the police operation were the checks that were carried out on victims of the disaster to “impugn their reputation”.
  • In relation to statements from officers from South Yorkshire Police who were present at the stadium, the panel found that 164 statements were significantly amended with 116 of these having negative or unfavourable comments about the police’s actions or conduct removed.
  • The source for The Sun newspaper’s infamous ‘The Truth’ frontpage was a local news agency in Sheffield, Whites Press Agency, whose journalists met with a local Conservative MP Irvine Patnick and members of the police force.
  • The panel said that the union for police forces in England and Wales, the Police Federation, met on the 19 April 1989 – the day The Sun printed its story.
  • A representative from SYP confirmed that they had been “putting our side of the story over to the press and the media” and that this had been his priority.
  • The Police Federation meeting heard that a “defence” had to be prepared and a “rock solid story” had to be presented which would exonerate the “force” and place the blame on “drunken, ticketless” fans.


  • The panel found that there were “profound concerns about the conduct and appropriateness of the inquests”.
  • The panel said that the imposition of a 3.15pm cut-off point by the coroner Dr Stefan Popper, after which no evidence of the emergency response was heard, and the recording of a single, unvarying pattern of death was “unsustainable”.
  • Blood alcohol tests were carried out on those who had died, including children.
  • Documents provided “no rationale” for this “exceptional decision”.
  • The panel found that “the weight placed on alcohol levels, particularly in the Coroner’s summing up at the inquests, was inappropriate and misleading”.
  • Blood alcohol levels were tested in some survivors who attended hospitals in Sheffield but there is no record of these tests or their results in medical notes and no “apparent medical reason for the test”.

In his statement today, Prime Minister David Cameron said that victims families were correct in their belief that authorities attempted to create “a “completely unjust” account of events at Hillsborough.

“The families were right,” he told MPs.

Read: Independent report finds police changed Hillsborough statements to deflect blame

In full: The Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel

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