Clive Betts (Sheffield South East, Labour)
The problem was that the crushing at that time was regarded as due to the lateral movement of the crowds at the Leppings Lane end, so lateral barriers were put in place in response to that incident. They created the pens that caused the problem and that is the issue. The lateral barriers were a safety measure that proved to be a failure.
Lord Justice Taylor stated—this confirms what the panel said—that the lack of counting mechanisms for individual parts of the Leppings Lane end meant that the responsibility rested with the police to see whether the pens were overfilling. The problem was that on the occasion of the Hillsborough disaster the police did not see the pens overfilling and opened the gates, which led to more people going into the central pen. They then did not respond to the further overcrowding. That was what Lord Justice Taylor found and I do not think any different evidence was given to the panel. There was a complete failure of the system. Of course there should have been counting mechanisms, but grounds across the country did not have them at that time. It was the police’s responsibility to monitor the crowd and take precautionary action and they failed on that occasion.
Lord Justice Taylor’s interim report was comprehensive. He said that it was the police’s responsibility to control and monitor the crowd. They failed in that respect, as he identifies in chapter 10. In chapter 17, he discusses the choice of Hillsborough as a ground and states:
“However, it was not suggested that the choice of venue was causative of this disaster. The only basis on which that could be said would be that, because of its layout, the Leppings Lane end was incapable of being successfully policed for this semi-final. I do not believe that to be so.”
He is saying that despite all the failings—those of the council, of the club and of others—the key issue was that the ground could have been operated safely on that day but for a failure of police control. Along with the issues considered by the panel, that brings us back to the key questions: why have people not been held accountable for those failings, why was there an attempt at a cover-up afterwards and how will we deal with the issues to ensure justice for the families? They are the key points and if we focus on them and on the responsibilities and actions, we will, I hope, get to the truth.
The question of timing is important and I hope that we can make arrangements so that all the necessary evidence can be taken account of properly and quickly. Twenty-three years is an awfully long time, so we ought to ensure that the final conclusions come as quickly as possible.