British police have issued an apology for their role in the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster that resulted in the tragic death of 97 soccer fans. It’s the first time that police have apologized for the disaster and how families of the victims have been treated. The apology comes six years after a 2017 report headed by James Jones documented poor police response to the tragedy. Jones also previously worked on a 2012 report that revealed police irresponsibility during the incident.

A total of 97 people were killed and over 700 fans were injured during the horrific incident. The disaster took place prior to an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Despite early suggestions that hooliganism was to blame for the tragedy, area police had a direct involvement in the incident.

David Duckenfield, the policeman in charge during the game, wrongly ordered a gate to be opened in an attempt to ease overcrowding. The move, however, proved to be fatal as hundreds of people were crushed in the process. Match officials obviously abandoned the match and it was replayed at a different location.

However, Duckenfield and his police colleagues blamed the Liverpool fans for the disaster in order to divert the blame from themselves.

Police exec admits to failing victims and their families

Chief executive of the College of Policing Andy Marsh issued an apologetic statement regarding the situation. “Policing has profoundly failed those bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster over many years and we are sorry that the service got it so wrong,” said Marsh.

“Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy and have continued to blight the lives of family members ever since. When leadership was most needed, the bereaved were often treated insensitively and the response lacked coordination and oversight.”

Police also making changes within system

Marsh also claimed that changes will occur inside the policing system, including a new code of ethics. “The changes include all police forces in England and Wales signing up to a charter agreeing to acknowledge when mistakes have been made and not seek to defend the indefensible; a strengthened ethical policy which makes candor a key theme, and new guidance for specialist officers supporting families during a tragedy,” stated Marsh.

No one has ever been convicted in relation to the Hillsborough disaster. Duckenfield was previously charged with gross negligence manslaughter for his actions, but was acquitted in 2019.

Photo: Imago