Hillsborough tragedy inquiry cost to remain secret

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, looks at some of the material in the Hillsborough Archive in Sheffield.
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, looks at some of the material in the Hillsborough Archive in Sheffield.
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THE Government is refusing to reveal how much it will cost to publish 45,000 boxes of documents relating to the Hillsborough tragedy.

The Home Office says the need for the Hillsborough Independent Panel to develop funding policy in private outweighs disclosure in the public interest.

The Star made a Freedom of Information request about the budget last November.

In December the Home Office said it needed more time and would respond in January, but breached its own deadline.

Now after further prompting, it has said the figure will not be revealed.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel is a two-year project launched last year to digitise all the documents relating to the tragedy held by organisations including the council, police, ambulance and fire service.

It runs to 45,000 boxes of material, millions of documents and audio and video tapes, some so delicate after more than 20 years they require specialist techniques to play back.

The panel, which meets regularly, has nine members headed by Bishop of Liverpool the Rt Rev James Jones and includes broadcaster John Sissons.

Three archivists are employed to scan documents from Sheffield, London and Liverpool.

The project was launched after pressure from families of the 96 victims of the tragedy who died in the crush at Hillsborough on April 15 1989 at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Victims’ families believe a major incident plan was never initiated and fans in the Leppings Lane end were denied emergency medical attention.

Following the Home Office’s refusal to reveal the budget, a Hillsborough Independent Panel spokesman said its aim was to “establish an archive of all documentation relating to the context, circumstances and aftermath of the disaster”.

He added: “It will publish a report showing how the disclosed material adds to public understanding of the tragedy and its aftermath. The budget will meet the necessary costs of archiving and researching the material in order to write the final report.

“The panel enjoys all-party support for its work and Home Secretary Theresa May has endorsed the commitment of the previous government to the panel’s work and its terms of reference.

“There is a vast amount of material to examine.

“The timetable and method of release will be decided by the Panel and this will be announced in due course.

“Final decisions on how and when papers will be made public are yet to be confirmed, but the Hillsborough families and other interested parties will be informed before anyone else.”