The Bishop of Liverpool has spoken of the “dark times” in the last two-and-a-half years he has spent reviewing the Hillsborough disaster.
The Rt Rev James Jones and the independent panel he chaired sifted through 400,000 documents relating to the 1989 tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.
“Yes, there have been dark times. I remember standing in the police control box at Hillsborough and looking down at the pens where people had died,” he said.
“It was a dark moment, but for me it was the moment the panel’s work came into sharp focus.
“It brought into sharp focus both what we were dealing with, and the importance of it.”
The report published by the panel today found that fault for the disaster lay with the police, who had wrongly tried to put the blame on Liverpool fans.
Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the “double injustice” suffered by relatives and victims of the disaster.
"What happened that day was wrong," he told MPs.
"On behalf of the Government, and indeed of our country, I am profoundly sorry that this double injustice has been left uncorrected for so long.
"...Not enough people in this country understand what the people of Merseyside have been through.
"This appalling death toll of so many loved ones lost was compounded by an attempt to blame the victims.
"A narrative about hooliganism on that day was created which led many in the country to accept that it was somehow a grey area.
"Today's report is black and white. The Liverpool fans 'were not the cause of the disaster'."
Introducing the report to the families of Hillsborough victims at Liverpool Cathedral, Bishop Jones said the documents analysed by the panel showed that “the tragedy should never have happened”.
“There were clear operational failures in response to the disaster and in its aftermath there were strenuous attempts to deflect the blame onto the fans,” he said.
"The panel's detailed report shows how vulnerable victims, survivors and their families are when transparency and accountability are compromised."
Panel member Dr Bill Kirkup said that as many as 41 of the 96 victims had “the potential to survive” if the response from the emergency services had been adequate.
Bishop Jones has written a prayer for the disclosure of the report:
In Jesus you taught us to keep on praying
and urged us never to give up
in our search for justice.
Comfort the families and the friends
of the 96 who died
and all who feel their loss;
As they relive the trauma of the tragedy of Hillsborough
Hold them in the Love that holds their loved ones,
Still their minds to receive all that is disclosed,
And guide them in their journey of justice and truth
That peace might be our constant companion.
Bishop’s prayer for Hillsborough disaster
Published 12 September 2012