Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with Press Secretary Bernard Ingham, second right, and others at Hillsborough on 16 April 1989, the day after the disaster [Source: Page 185 of the Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel]
With the publication of the coruscating Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel [PDF], I am rereading my copies of Lord Justice Taylor's August 1989 Interim Report [PDF] and January 1990 Final Report into the 15 April 1989 Hillsborough Stadium Disaster (Cm 759 and Cm 962).
Paragraph 278 of the Interim Report has "the failure of police control" as "the main reason for the disaster".
Paragraph 285 of the Interim Report stands out very starkly:
The Police Case at the Inquiry
It is a matter of regret that at the hearing, and in their submissions, the South Yorkshire Police were not prepared to concede they were in any respect at fault in what occurred. Mr Duckenfield, under pressure of cross-examination, apologised for blaming the Liverpool fans for causing the deaths. But, that apart, the police case was to blame the fans for being late and drunk, and to blame the Club for failing to monitor the pens. It was argued that the fatal crush was not caused by the influx through gate C but was due to barrier 124a being defective. Such an unrealistic approach gives cause for anxiety as to whether lessons have been learnt. It would have been more seemly and encouraging for the future if responsibility had been faced.
The Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel rightly covers a far wider range of issues, and shows that there was a systematic conspiracy by the police to cover up their failures [long and thorough BBC news report, dated 15 September 2012]; but if you are as baffled as I am as to why Taylor's original conclusions have taken 22 years to become fully and unequivocally supported, you will get a lot from reading pages 181 to 203 of Part 2 of the Independent Panel's report, especially paragraphs 2.6.122 to 2.6.135, which explain how the Home Secretary Douglas Hurd was overruled by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in his original intention to welcome the broad thrust of the Interim Report:
"What do we mean by ‘welcoming the broad thrust of the report’? The broad thrust is devastating criticism of the police. Is that for us to welcome? ... Surely we welcome the thoroughness of the report and its recommendations - M.T. [Margaret Thatcher]."