Hillsborough files: 100,000 sign online petition

Hillsborough memorial Ninety-six Liverpool fans were killed in the disaster

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A petition calling for Hillsborough disaster Cabinet papers to be released has reached 100,000 signatures - enough for a Commons debate to be considered.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and Newcastle United player Joey Barton used Twitter to urge people to sign the Home Office website petition.

It follows a ruling by Information Commissioner Christopher Graham that the papers should be published.

E-petitions with 100,000 signatures must be considered for debate.

Celebrities including former Liverpool player Michael Owen, musician Billy Bragg, actor Simon Pegg and comedian Dara O Briain added their names to the petition on the Home Office website.

The Cabinet Office has said it will appeal against the information commissioner's publication decision - which followed a Freedom of Information request for the documents from the BBC.

The office said it believed the Hillsborough Independent Panel, established under the Labour government, should oversee the disclosure of documents relating to the tragedy.

'Petition still live'

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died in the disaster at the FA cup semi-final tie against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on 15 April, 1989.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The e-petition has now reached 100,000 signatures and the government will notify the Backbench Business Committee in the House of Commons in order that the committee can consider its suitability for debate when Parliament returns in September.

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The number of signatures on the Hillsborough petition has passed the target for consideration for a Commons debate, but new doubts have arisen over the Cabinet Office case for rejecting it”

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"The e-petition will remain live, and people will be able to continue adding their signatures. The government will respond to those who have signed the e-petition in due course."

Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotherham has urged people to continue signing the petition.

Margaret Aspinall, who chairs the Hillsborough Families' Support Group, said she thought it was "absolutely amazing" that so many people had signed the petition prompting attention from the media and politicians.

However, she said the independent panel and the families should see the documents before they were released to the general public.

"It has got to go through the right procedure," she said.

Mrs Aspinall said she did not want snippets coming out but all documents, without redactions, handed over to the panel.

She said her 18-year-old son James had gone to a football game and returned home in a coffin five days later and she needed answers about what had happened to him.

Doreen Jones, who also lost her son in the disaster, said the families still did not know if their loved ones could have been saved.

"For us there will never be complete closure. Our sons won't come home," she said.

"The closure we want is for everything to be put in the public domain so we have peace."

But she also said she wanted the documents to be handed over to the panel, and then to the families before they were made public.

Pundit and former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson, who played 332 games for the club before leaving a year before the disaster, said: "Why can't the government just say 'right, here are the facts, here are all the papers' and just let the people make their minds up?

"It may be there are lots of people to blame, maybe there are Liverpool supporters to blame. If there are they have to deal with the consequences.

"We just want to know the truth."

Prof Phil Scraton, a member of the independent panel, said it was determined to have full, unredacted disclosure of all documents from all relevant agencies in connection with the disaster.

He said the government documents were only part of the huge remit of their inquiry.

'Nothing hidden'

The panel is also looking at what happened before the disaster, circumstances on the day, the immediate aftermath, the "appalling treatment of families in the aftermath" and subsequent investigations, he said.

"Nothing will be hidden. Everything will be disclosed. Everything will be put into the public domain," he said.

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Nobody can be in any doubt now on the mood of the country about the Hillsborough disaster”

End Quote Andy Burnham

The families were the "primary objective", he said. "They are the people who are bereaved."

Andy Burnham, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who called for full disclosure of the documents in 2009, said he felt the government had made a mistake in appealing against the information commissioner's ruling.

"The prime minister does need to intervene now and overrule that decision otherwise it will damage trust in the disclosure process," he said.

He agreed the panel had to control the process and give the information to the families ahead of the public but said the 100,000 people who had signed the petition had done a "great thing".

He felt the issue had to be debated in the House of Commons as "nobody can be in any doubt now on the mood of the country about the Hillsborough disaster".

Mr Burnham added: "They [the families] have suffered so much down the years. They now need the full truth. Nothing else will do. The government has to deliver that."

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