Emergency services ‘profoundly sorry’ for their failings over football disaster

THE heads of the Yorkshire emergency services who went to huge efforts to deflect blame to cover up their failings in the tragedy, have issued a profound apology.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel’s findings yesterday revealed the extent to which “substantive amendments were made” to statements by South Yorkshire Police to remove or alter “unfavourable” comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.

The documents show for the first time that South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service documents were “subject to the same process”, the panel said.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Meanwhile the South Yorkshire Police Federation, “supported informally by the SYP Chief Constable”, was found to have sought to develop and publicise a version of events derived in police officers’ allegations of drunkenness, ticketless fans and violence.

The chief constable of South Yorkshire Police yesterday said he was “profoundly sorry” for his force’s actions in the aftermath of the disaster.

David Crompton said he had been “shocked” by the findings of the report and officers had made “grave errors”.

He said in a statement: “In the immediate aftermath senior officers sought to change the record of events. Disgraceful lies were told which blamed the Liverpool fans for the disaster.

“I am profoundly sorry for the way the force failed on 15th April 1989 and I am doubly sorry for the injustice that followed and I apologise to the families of the 96 and Liverpool fans.”

The statement added: “On that day, South Yorkshire Police failed the victims and families. The police lost control.

“These actions have caused untold pain and distress for over 23 years.

“South Yorkshire Police is a very different place in 2012 from what it was 23 years ago and we will be fully open and transparent in helping to find answers to the questions posed by the panel today.”

The panel also uncovered serious failings in South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service’s response to the tragedy.

The criticisms focus on the lack of an organised response, the lack of equipment, and a lack of leadership provided by senior officers.

One of the documents released yesterday shows ambulance staff also emphasised the unruly actions of supporters alongside police to Whites Press agency in Sheffield following the disaster.

The article, dated 18/4/89, reads: “South Yorkshire Chief Ambulance Officer Don Page revealed one ambulanceman needed hospital treatment after being attacked as he treated an injured fan. Other ambulancemen had to tend injuries in other parts of the ground caused by fans fighting.”

David Whiting, chief executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service, last night told the Yorkshire Post he believed this was consistent with reports on the day and said the service had not attempted to smear fans.

“The Trust remains committed to openness in the process and we welcome and fully accept the findings highlighted within the panel’s report,” he added.

“I sincerely apologise for the shortcomings identified in the report relating to the way in which the incident was managed in the early stages.”