• Hillsborough

Former PM Major in Hillsborough apology

ESPN staff
October 23, 2013
John Major became Prime Minister the year after the Hillsborough tragedy occurred © PA Photos

Sir John Major has apologised to the families of Liverpool fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster for failing to order a public inquiry when he was UK Prime Minister.

Major was Prime Minister between 1990 and 1997, when campaigners were beginning their push to get justice for the victims of the disaster.

A total of 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death on an over-crowded section of terracing during an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground on April 15, 1989.

But it was only with the publication of an independent report in September 2012, which cleared fans of any blame for the tragedy and highlighted the extent to which the police and emergency services attempted to cover up their own culpability, that families of the victims have started to see progress in their bid to bring those responsible to account.

Speaking to a lunch organised by the UK's Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons in London, Major acknowledged that his Government had got it wrong by refusing to order an inquiry into Britain's worst sporting disaster.

He said: "The Hillsborough report was pretty shocking. When there was agitation for a Hillsborough report we had pretty strong police views that there was no need for a report at the time.

"Nowadays I'm not sure that assurance would ring as strongly as it did in the 1990s, so self-evidently, the Hillsborough families who petitioned and demanded the independent report have been effectively proven to be right.

"We must all say to them: 'We are sorry, we should have dealt with it earlier and we should have listened a good deal more carefully.'

"And I am very happy to say that to the Hillsborough families today - we should have done more and I am sorry in retrospect that we didn't. It is one of many things that you can look back on and regret."

Major's apology was welcomed by campaigners for the Hillsborough families.

Trevor Hicks, whose daughters Victoria and Sarah died in the disaster, told the Yorkshire Post: "I'm very pleased to hear what he has said.

"Obviously it is a deep source of regret for everybody - the families in particular, who've had to suffer and push hard to get where we have now.

"Every little step, every bit of regret and recognition from senior politicians, is to be welcomed. It is a long time coming, and very welcome.

The publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report 13 months ago prompted a series of legal moves intended to bring those culpable for the disaster to justice.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the UK's police watchdog, began an investigation last October into both the role played by officers on the day and the subsequent cover-up.

A second investigation, named Operation Resolve and focusing on possible criminal behaviour by any people or bodies with responsibility for fan safety at Hillsborough, was set up in December and is being headed up by former Durham chief constable Jon Stoddart.

In addition, original inquest verdicts of accidental death - which campaigners believe prevented a proper investigation into the tragedy for years - were quashed last December, with fresh hearings to begin in Warrington in March 2014.

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