University of Leicester academics speak out following Hillsborough inquests verdicts

Two University academics have spoken out following the announcement of the verdicts from the Hillsborough disaster inquests.

Writing in the Leicester Mercury, John Williams, a senior lecturer in Sociology who was at Hillsborough 27 years ago, said: “The very formation of the Premier League, the design of its glossy and safe stadia, and the change in attitudes of police and stewards to fans over the past three decades, owes a lot to what happened at a football stadium in very different conditions a generation ago. We can only now officially say what really took place on that awful day 27 years ago.

“So, when the Leicester City celebrations begin here in earnest, just spare a thought for those sons and daughters, fathers and uncles - fans like you and me - who went to a game 27 years ago only to be defiled and wrongly blamed by officials for their own unlawful killing. Because their sacrifice, properly acknowledged this week, is also a crucial part of this Premier League story.”

In his contribution to the 2014 book Networks and Network Analysis for Defence and Security published by Springer, Dr Simon Bennett from our Civil Safety and Security Unit suggests that the post-disaster cover-up proves that public servants sometimes act against the public interest.

Dr Bennett says issues that warrant investigation include: police statements being privileged over other types of witness statement; the truth being distorted through the application of crude stereotypes; and the ‘operational freedom’ defence deployed by the UK police service. Dr Bennett suggests it may be used to conceal officers’ unprofessional behaviour.

Dr Bennett’s contribution to the debate about the Hillsborough cover-up and his support for the Hillsborough Family Support Group has drawn praise from MPs and prompted a response from the then coalition Government and South Yorkshire Constabulary.