Britain’s top cops admitted Tuesday that police failures were the main cause of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 when 97 Liverpool FC fans were killed.
In a landmark joint statement, leaders of the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) issued an apology to the Hillsborough families.
In the foreword to the Hillsborough Families Report, Chief Constable Andy Marsh, CEO of the College of Policing and Martin Hewitt, chair of the NPCC, said: “Ninety-seven men, women and children were unlawfully killed. Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy and police failures have continued to blight the lives of family members ever since.”
It was at the start of an FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989 that a crush led to 97 fans dying and almost 800 fans being hurt. The game at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield was abandoned after just a few minutes.
Since the tragedy, fans, backed by Liverpool FC, have fought for justice.
“Policing has profoundly failed those bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster over many years and we are sorry that the service got it so wrong. Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy and have continued to blight the lives of family members ever since,” said Marsh.
“When leadership was most needed, the bereaved were often treated insensitively and the response lacked coordination and oversight.”
Marsh said Tuesday’s report explained long-term and more recent developments in how the police respond to mass fatality incidents.
“Hillsborough is a touchstone for long-lasting change in policing and there is a commitment from the leadership in policing to create a modern, dynamic police service which acts without fear or favor and with integrity and empathy,” he added.
The Hillsborough Families Report recommended action from public bodies and the government to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families could not be repeated.
“Today’s national policing response is a commitment to avoid the failures made during and after the Hillsborough Disaster; embed strong ethical values in the service; and ensure there is humanity and humility in the police response to public tragedy,” the report added.