Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Hillsborough Disaster - April 1989 - the search for information continues

Update 13th September - there will be a debate in Parliament on 17th October

Updated 25th August

The 1980s saw a number of appalling disasters at Football grounds: Heysel stadium 29th May 1985; Bradford City 11th May 1985 and Hillsborough 15th April 1989.  An e-petition relating to the Hillsborough disaster has reached over 100,000 signatures.  The petition follows a Decision Notice (Ref: FS50350458 of 20th July 2011) by the Information Commissioner.  The decision may be accessed via the Information Commissioner's website - on the July 2011 page - here

The complainant requested information dating from April 1989 relating to the Hillsborough disaster that was provided to the then Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher) or material which recorded meetings on this matter which were attended by the Prime Minister. The Cabinet Office refused
the request and cited the following exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act 2000 sections 31(1)(a), 31(1)(b) and 31(1)(g) (prejudice to law enforcement), 35(1)(a), 35(1)(b) and 35(1)(d) (information relating to the formulation or development of government policy, Ministerial communications and the operation of any Ministerial private office), and 40(2) (personal information). In relation to the information withheld under subsections from sections 31 and 35, the Commissioner decided that the public interest favoured disclosure of the information, and the public authority is now required to disclose this information. In relation to the information withheld under section 40(2), the Commissioner decided that the public authority was entitled to withhold this information. The Commissioner also finds that the public authority breached the Act in that it failed to respond to the request within 20 working days of receipt.

It appears that the government is going to appeal this decision to the First-tier tribunal (Information Rights) - (commonly referred to as the "Information Tribunal") - see The Guardian 23rd August 2011. and BBC 23rd August.

The Hillsborough disaster was the subject of an interim and final report by Lord Justice Taylor (later Lord Taylor of Gosforth CJ).  The disaster also had an interesting legal legacy which was the subject of an article which I wrote at the time - please see The Hillsborough disaster and its legal legacy.  (Note: the article endeavoured to state the law as it stood in April 2009).

Addendum 25th August:   as of this morning the e-petition had 131233 signatures.  A government statement was issued:

This e-petition has reached 100,000 signatures. The Government has notified the Backbench Business Committee in the House of Commons who will consider its suitability for debate when Parliament returns in September. This e-petition will remain live, and people will be able to continue adding their signatures. In the meantime, we would like to update you on the Government’s current position on the substance of this e-petition: The Government has confirmed its commitment to full transparency about the Hillsborough disaster through full public disclosure. All papers had previously been shared with the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The Government is happy for all the papers, including Cabinet papers, to be released as soon as the Panel so decides, in consultation with the families. We expect them to be shared with the Hillsborough families first and then to the wider public.

Media:  Saturday 27th August:   The Daily Mail looks at possible reasons why the documents have not bee released - Daily Mail 27th August


  1. ObiterJ,

    You have linked to The Hillsborough Justice Campaign, which appears to be a separate organisation from the the Hillsborough Families Support Group.

    Unfortunately, a wedge of some sort appears to have been driven between these Hillsborough victims' support groups?

  2. @ Anonymous - I am more than happy to put this right. The relevant links are:

    Hillsborough Families Support Group

    Hillsborough Justice Campaign