Hillsborough papers release date set

Memorial at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium
Image caption The disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium in 1989 is Britain's worst sporting tragedy

A date has been announced for secret government and police documents on the Hillsborough disaster to be released to the families of those who died.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has examined thousands of papers, is to release them on 12 September.

Ninety-six Liverpool football fans died after a crush on overcrowded terraces in Sheffield on 15 April 1989.

An official inquiry found the main cause was a failure in crowd control by South Yorkshire Police.

In a statement announcing the release date, the panel said it hoped it would "give the bereaved families sufficient time to prepare for the disclosure".

"One of the panel's central objectives has been consultation with the bereaved families," it said. "In due course the panel will contact each family to explain details of the disclosure arrangements."

More than 400,000 pages of documents from more than 80 organisations had been analysed by the panel, it said.

After the release to relatives of the victims, the papers will later be disclosed to the wider public.

The panel will also deliver a report "explaining how the disclosed documents add to public understanding" of the disaster.

Leak inquiry

In a written statement, Home Secretary Theresa May said: "The government is fully supportive of the work of the independent panel chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool.

"The panel's work has been detailed and complex, but the government is pleased that it will complete its work by the Autumn as it made clear earlier this year."

The Cabinet Office is carrying out an inquiry after some documents were leaked to the BBC earlier this year.

The most controversial element of the papers seen by the BBC was a briefing note to then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, days after the disaster, that an unnamed senior Merseyside Police officer wrongly blamed drunken Liverpool fans for the disaster.

Lord Justice Taylor's official report into the disaster, in 1990, said the "great majority [of supporters] were not drunk or even the worse for drink", and that "some officers, seeking to rationalise their loss of control, overestimated the drunkenness in the crowd".

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