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Prime Minister's profound apology for Hillsborough injustice
The Prime Minister has issued a profound apology to Hillsborough families who have suffered the double injustice of "the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth”.
He was addressing the House of Commons following publication of an independent report into previously unseen documents about the tragedy of April 15, 1989.
The PM said the conclusions of the report will be harrowing for many of the families affected.
It revealed 59 lives could have saved if the authorities' response to the unfolding disaster had been better focused.
"Anyone who has lost a child knows the pain never leaves you. But to read a report years afterwards that says and I quote 'a swifter, more appropriate, better focused and properly-equipped response had the potential to save more lives' can only add to the pain," he said.
96 Liverpool fans died in the disaster, 12 of them from Wirral.
Mr Cameron said details of the report were "deeply distressing".
He said it showed fans "were not the cause of the disaster".
The document by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, chaired by Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, showed police and emergency services made "strenuous attempts" to deflect the blame for the disaster on to innocent fans.
It says the vast majority of fans assisted in rescuing and evacuating the injured and dead.
Mr Cameron said Attorney General Dominic Grieve would review the report as quickly as possible in order to decide whether to apply to the High Court to order a new inquest. It will be for the court to make the final decision.
The House was told by the PM that police took blood alcohol levels from all the deceased, including children.
There was no justification for this and it is unacceptable. He said the families have long-believed that there was an attempt by the authorities to misrepresent what happened. The families were right.
Mr Cameron said: "Perhaps most significantly of all, the Bishop of Liverpool’s report presents new evidence which casts significant doubt over the adequacy of the original inquest.
"The coroner – on the advice of pathologists – believed that victims suffered traumatic asphyxia leading to unconsciousness within seconds and death within a few minutes.
"As a result he asserted that beyond 3.15pm there were no actions that could have changed the fate of the victims and he limited the scope of the Inquest accordingly.
"But by analysing post mortem reports the panel have found that 28 did not have obstruction of blood circulation and 31 had evidence of heart and lungs continuing to function after the crush.
"This means that individuals in those groups could have had potentially reversible asphyxia beyond 3.15pm in contrast to the findings of the coroner and a subsequent Judicial Review.
"And the panel states clearly that 'it is highly likely that what happened to those individuals after 3.15pm was significant' in determining whether they died."
There were briefings to the media, and they led to the infamous Sun newspaper's story attacking fans.
The report said this information came from a Sheffield news agency based on comments by police officers.
Some 164 police statements were amended, said Mr Cameron. Many had removed lines criticising the police.
The Prime Minister said officers carried out police national computer checks on the dead to try to impugn their reputation.
Blood tests were also taken from the dead including children to see if they had been drinking. This was unacceptable and there was no rationale for it, he said.
Drinking levels were normal for an event like this.
Mr Cameron continued: "There is a trail of new documents which show the extent to which the safety of the crowd at Hillsborough was “compromised at every level”.
"The ground failed to meet minimum standards and the “deficiencies were well known”.
The turnstiles were inadequate.
"The ground capacity had been significantly over-calculated. 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.
"The report backs up again the key finding of the Taylor Report on police failure.
"But it goes further by revealing for the first time the shortcomings of the ambulance and emergency services response.
"The major incident plan was not fully implemented. Rescue attempts were held back by failures of leadership and co-ordination.
"And, significantly, new documents today show there was a delay from the emergency services when people were being crushed and killed."
For the first time, it has been revealed that ambulance service statements also had been altered removing negative comments.
Mr Cameron said the then-government should have done more to challenge the false statements said about fans.
And he explained to Parliament what the 23-year wait has meant for the people of Merseyside who lost loved ones at Hillsborough: "Because of what I have described as the second injustice – the false version of events - not enough people in this country understand what the people of Merseyside have been through.
"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 it was somehow a grey area.
"Today’s report is black and white. The Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster.
"The panel has quite simply found no evidence in support of allegations of 'exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence among Liverpool fans no evidence that fans had conspired to arrive late at the stadium and no evidence that they stole from the dead and dying'”.
Introducing the report to the Hillsborough families at the Anglican Cathedral, Bishop James Jones said: "For nearly a quarter of a century the families of the 96 and the survivors of Hillsborough have nursed an open wound waiting for answers to unresolved questions.
"It has been a frustrating and painful experience adding to their grief. "In spite of all the investigations they have sensed that their search for truth and justice has been thwarted and that no-one has been held accountable.
"The documents disclosed to and analysed by the panel show that the tragedy should never have happened.
"There were clear operational failures in response to the disaster and in its aftermath there were strenuous attempts to deflect the blame onto the fans.
"The panel's detailed report shows how vulnerable victims, survivors and their families are when transparency and accountability are compromised.
"My colleagues and I were from the start of our work impressed by the dignified determination of the families."
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the original inquest was "hopelessly inadequate" with new evidence showing some of the victims could have been saved.
He said all government's since the disaster bear some share of responsibility and apologised on behalf of his party saying it "shames us as a country" that it took 23 years to get to the truth.
Wirral South MP Alison McGovern said: “Today is a momentous move forward in the fight for justice and the search for the truth.
"Now we must consider the information put forward so that we can take further steps towards justice and accountability.
"I am so proud of the dignity and courage of families of those we lost, and all survivors of that awful day. It has been an inspiration to me, and I will continue to work alongside them for justice.
“If anyone wishes to view the report or documents, which I understand are only available online at the moment, libraries across the region will be able to assist you to access them with their internet facilities.
"Do call in to your local library if you need help."
She said if anyone feels they need further support or counselling regarding the issue, they should contact Merseyside Samaritans on 0151 708 8888.