Chester’s MP Stephen Mosley has spoken during a debate in Parliament about the deaths of 96 people at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
The debate arose following the recent publication of the Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
Opening his speech in the House of Commons, Mr Mosley said:
“To learn that the lives of up to 41 people could have been saved, and to discover that those responsible sought to manipulate the truth, to conceal their own guilt and to shift the blame onto the innocent victims of that day is one of the greatest scandals in our nation’s history.
“The failures, the flaws, the corruption and the deceit of those culpable have been laid bare for all to see. But most importantly, the reputation, the honour and the persistence of those who sought the truth, for so long, has been vindicated.”
Following on from the publication of the Panel’s Report last month, the Attorney General has moved swiftly to indicate his intention to write to the High Court to request that new inquests be held into the deaths of the 96 victims.
Additionally, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has announced that they are to investigate the actions of South Yorkshire Police Force on the day of the disaster, and their conduct in the aftermath of it.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Mosley said:
“The circumstances surrounding Hillsborough have remained clouded in the minds of many for over 23 years. People didn’t understand what happened. But they do now.
“After 23 years, the truth has finally been revealed and it is time for justice.”
Full Text of Speech:
Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): The atmosphere that enveloped the Chamber when the Prime Minister made his statement to the House last month will stay with me for the rest of my life. That atmosphere was echoed across the country as the truth of what happened at Hillsborough was revealed.
To learn that the lives of 41 people might have been saved and to discover that those responsible sought to manipulate the truth to conceal their own guilt and shift the blame on to the innocent victims of the day made this one of the greatest scandals in our history. The failures, flaws, corruption and deceit of those who were culpable have been laid bare for all to see. Most importantly, the reputation, honour and persistence of those who sought the truth for so long have been vindicated.
Reading through the panel’s report, it is difficult to identify which of the many failings caused the most harm: the cavalier attitude towards health and safety at the stadium, which had no safety certificate and a terrible record of near misses at big matches in previous years; the complete absence of leadership, communication and responsibility among those who were supposedly in charge on the day; or the perpetuation of lies by those self-serving individuals in senior positions of authority who tried to absolve themselves of responsibility. Each of those revelations, and the many others that the report highlighted, were truly shocking to discover. We owe the members of the panel a huge debt of gratitude for their diligence and hard work, and for the clarity with which they presented their findings.
Looking around the Chamber, I can see many right hon. and hon. Members who fought long and hard to ensure that the truth about Hillsborough was brought to the public’s attention. What many of us cannot understand is why it has taken so long. Although there is much in the panel’s report that has been revealed and published for the first time, there is a huge amount that has been known about for a long time, but that has been ignored, dismissed or ridiculed over the course of the 23 years.
A case in point, where information and evidence have clearly been ignored, is that of my constituent’s son, Kevin Williams. As with all 96 victims, the inquest into his death ruled that Kevin died at or before 3.15 pm, yet video evidence showed Kevin being lifted out of pen 3 at 3.28 pm and resuscitated on the pitch by PC Michael Craighill. At 3.31 pm Kevin was carried across the pitch by, among others, an off-duty fire officer, Mr Tony O’Keefe, who stated that Kevin was still alive. At 3.37 pm, Kevin was resuscitated by an off-duty police officer, PC Derek Bruder, who testified that Kevin was still alive. Finally, Special WPC Debra Martin found Kevin’s pulse, picked him up in her arms and watched and listened as he opened his eyes, spoke the word “Mum” and then died just before 4 o’clock.
There has never really been any doubt about what happened to Kevin Williams. The eyewitness accounts on the day were unequivocal: Kevin was still alive just before 4 pm. The evidence has been presented to three previous Attorneys-General on three separate occasions, and the facts of what happened to Kevin were recounted in the House in an Adjournment debate as far back as 1994. What happened to Kevin, and to so many others, has not been a secret, yet only last month, with the Prime Minister’s statement and the publication of the independent panel’s report, was the truth finally accepted.
Steve Rotheram: I spoke today to Anne Williams, who is not well enough to be here but will be watching the proceedings on the television. Is it not testament to a mother’s love that somebody would continue their fight despite the fact that, time after time, the legal doors were slammed in that woman’s face? She went as far as the European Court and was turned down. Is that not a national disgrace?
Stephen Mosley: I spoke to Mrs Williams on Friday and she passed on her regards and thanks to Members such as the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), who have done so much to ensure that we have got to where we are now. I am grateful for the fact that the truth is now out there, and as the hon. Gentleman says, it is a total disgrace that it has taken so long.
We now know that witness statements were altered in the weeks and months after the tragedy. Last week, the Independent Police Complaints Commission launched an investigation into the process of amendments undertaken by South Yorkshire police. In addition, the IPCC said that the role of West Midlands police would be examined as part of its investigations, and it is that role that I wish to address.
As I said, at 3.37 pm Kevin Williams was being resuscitated by an off-duty police officer, PC Derek Bruder. PC Bruder had seen Kevin moving his head and being sick, so he went over to help. He saw an ambulance and tried to stop it so that Kevin could receive medical attention. PC Bruder provided an official statement shortly afterwards, along with a second statement four months later.
PC Bruder was then visited at his home on 3 May 1990 by a West Midlands detective inspector to take a further statement. PC Bruder was told that the video footage had been studied and that the ambulance to which he referred in his statement was not in the ground in the time, so he must be mistaken. He stuck to his evidence and told the detective inspector that he would be available to give evidence at the inquest. But PC Bruder was not called to give evidence at the inquest. Instead, Detective Inspector Sawers said at Kevin’s inquest that PC Bruder was mistaken about the ambulance; mistaken about taking a pulse from Kevin; and also mistaken about seeing him be sick. It is worth noting that, contrary to the evidence given at the inquest, video and photographic evidence was available, along with a statement from the assistant driver of the ambulance in question, Mr Tony Edwards, confirming PC Bruder’s testimony that an ambulance passed them at 3.37 pm. His evidence was correct all along and should not have been ignored and dismissed at the initial inquest.
Another example of the inappropriate actions of West Midlands police relates to the special constable who held Kevin in her arms as he passed away shortly before 4 pm. Special WPC Debra Martin’s original statement, made within weeks of the disaster, described finding Kevin’s pulse, resuscitating him, hearing him call for his mother and holding him as he died just before 4 pm. However, a few months later Miss Martin was visited at her home by West Midlands police officers. In total, she was visited on four separate occasions by senior police officers whose aim was to convince her that her original statement was mistaken and that Kevin was not alive when she treated him. Considerable pressure was put on Miss Martin to ratify the amended statement, and I understand that she was even told that she could not have looked after Kevin because she was not at Hillsborough. She was accused of standing by and doing nothing as people died; she was told she was making the whole thing up. In the end, she succumbed to pressure and signed the second statement without reading it. In that second statement, everything that referred to signs of life in Kevin was gone, and there was no reference to a pulse or to him saying, “Mum”. Miss Martin has stated on numerous occasions that she stands by her original statement and that she was bullied by senior police officers to sign the second, inaccurate statement.
Alec Shelbrooke: Does my hon. Friend agree that Miss Martin was not bullied, but rather the course of justice was perverted?
Stephen Mosley: This is my reading of the situation. Miss Martin is very clear about what happened; I heard her talking about it on the radio just last week. She was terribly bullied and found herself in an awful situation.
Although the conduct of West Midlands police is not detailed in the independent panel’s report, it must be seriously called into question, and the actions of the police thoroughly investigated in the IPCC inquiry.
The Hillsborough independent panel has done a fantastic job not only in overseeing the full disclosure of information, but also, importantly, by adding to public understanding about what happened. To ensure that we finally complete the quest for justice, two more tasks must be undertaken. First, where responsibility has been neglected and evidence either altered or deliberately ignored, prosecutions must follow. Secondly, the Attorney-General must deliver on his promise to ask the High Court for new inquests into the 96 deaths. Previous inquests have been shown to be false, and they must be quashed in law. The circumstances surrounding Hillsborough have remained clouded in the minds of many for more than 23 years. People did not understand what happened, but now they do. After 23 years, the truth has finally been revealed and it is time for justice.