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12 September 2012

Five things we learned from Cameron’s Hillsborough statement

Could some of the victims have been saved?

By George Eaton

David Cameron’s statement on the Hillsborough tragedy has rightly been praised by all sides for its dignified and heartfelt character. As when the Bloody Sunday report was published, the Prime Minister spoke for the nation, declaring that he was “profoundly sorry” that this injustice had been “uncorrected for so long”.

You can read the 395 page report in full here, but here are five of the key points from Cameron’s statement.

1. Crowd safety was “compromised at every level”

A series of new documents reveal the extent to which the disaster was foreseeable. As Cameron said,”The turnstiles were inadequate. The ground capacity had been significantly over-calculated. The crush barriers failed to meet safety standards. There had been a crush at exactly the same match the year before. And today’s report shows clearly that lessons had not been learnt.”

2. 164 police statements were doctored

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In an attempt to divert the blame onto the fans, 164 police statements were “significantly amended”, while 116 explicitly removed negative comments about the policing operation, including its leadership.

3. Police carried out computer checks on the dead

Perhaps most shockingly, police officers carried out national computer checks on those who had died in an attempt, as the report puts it, “to impugn the reputations of the deceased.” In addition, the Coroner took blood alcohol levels from all of the deceased including children, a decision for which there was no reasonable justification. The attempt of the original inquest to draw a link between blood alcohol and late arrival was “fundamentally flawed”.

4. The original inquest was wrong

The original coroner’s inquest was wrong to suggest that beyond 3.15pm there were no actions that could have changed the fate of the 96 victims. Cameron announced that the independent panel found that “28 did not have obstruction of blood circulation and 31 had evidence of heart and lungs continuing to function after the crush.” Individuals in those groups could have had potentially reversible asphyxia beyond 3.15pm.

5. A new inquest?

Cameron announced that the Attorney General would examine the new evidence immediately and “reach a decision as fast as possible”, although it was ultimately for the High Court to decide. The Commons will have the opportunity to debate the report in full when it returns after the party conference season in October.