Thursday 15 March 2012

Leaked Hillsborough papers

The BBC reports that it has seen some leaked confidential papers about the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster;

In the papers disclosed so far, it appears that senior officers from Merseyside Police in briefings to Margaret Thatcher  claimed four days after the disaster that drunken fans were responsible for the tragedy. This claim was later shown to be utter rubbish by the official report into the tragedy by Lord Justice Taylor who concluded the "great majority were not drunk or even the worse for drink," and that "some officers, seeking to rationalise their loss of control, overestimated the drunkenness in the crowd".

Clearly, such attempts to blame fans for the tragedy are offensive and very upsetting for both the families of the bereaved and survivors, and shows how, in the immediate aftermath of Hillsborough, a totally flawed view developped that the fans were in some way culpable (rather than the now generally accepted view that woefully poor crowd management was responsible for the disaster), and that this seemed to be in part a coping strategy to deal with the Police's inability to safely control the situation.

We shall see what else comes out from the rest of the papers, but it depresses me that such flawed explanations for the causes of the disaster (and of how crowds behave in general) were not only put forward by Police officers from Merseyside (who probably weren't at the match which was held in South Yorkshire), but that they were allowed to brief the highest politicians in the country with such flawed opinions.

I can only hope that attitudes towards crowd management have changed since Hillsborough if any such future tragedies are to be prevented.    

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