Appendix 2: Disclosure process

Introduction

When the Home Secretary announced the establishment of the Hillsborough Independent Panel on 15 December 2009 he also published the terms of reference and a protocol which would govern its work (see Appendix 1).

Based on the protocol, this appendix sets out how the Panel approached its task, the issues relating to the process that arose during the Panel's work and how issues were addressed.

The Panel and the secretariat

The members of the Hillsborough Independent Panel were announced by Alan Johnson, then Home Secretary, on 26 January 2010.[1] They were: The Right Reverend James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool (Chairman), Raju Bhatt, Christine Gifford, Katy Jones, Dr Bill Kirkup CBE, Paul Leighton CBE, QPM, Professor Phil Scraton, Peter Sissons, Sarah Tyacke CBE.

All members of the Panel signed confidentiality agreements. A Panel secretariat was established and met with interested parties including the families of the deceased and other victims. Following these early discussions with the families, work started on identifying potential contributing organisations including local agencies in Sheffield, other public authorities, private companies and individuals and bodies corporate.

The Panel met for the first time in Liverpool on 4 February 2010 and on 35 occasions between then and 12 September 2012. Most Panel meetings took place in Liverpool but the Panel also met in Sheffield and in London. At its first meeting, anticipating the volume of work and the timescale within which it was required to report, the Panel established sub-groups to focus on the key elements of its task. These sub-groups were:

Task 1: Disclosure

  • The Bishop of Liverpool
  • Christine Gifford
  • Professor Phil Scraton
  • Paul Leighton
  • Dr Bill Kirkup

Task 2: Research and report

  • Professor Phil Scraton
  • Dr Bill Kirkup
  • Paul Leighton
  • Katy Jones
  • Raju Bhatt

Task 3: Permanent Archive

  • Sarah Tyacke
  • Christine Gifford

Task 4: Consulting families

  • The Bishop of Liverpool
  • Katy Jones
  • Dr Bill Kirkup
  • Paul Leighton (as required)
  • Peter Sissons (as required)

Consultation with Hillsborough families

The terms of reference oblige the Panel to disclose documents and other material 'initially to the Hillsborough families and other involved parties ... before information is made more widely available'. This is the principle of 'families first'. 

From the outset the Panel committed to consultation with bereaved families throughout its work. Contact has been made with at least one family member of all who died at Hillsborough, including families not affiliated to any of the representative groups.

At its first meeting in February 2010, Panel members met with representatives of the three representative groups: the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG); the Hillsborough Justice Campaign; and Hope for Hillsborough. In April 2012, Panel members also met with members of some families not affiliated to the groups. Regular contact has been maintained with the groups and with individual families while the Panel has continued its work. The Panel has continued its commitment to meeting the representative groups.

Disclosure process

Scope

Disclosure includes all documentation held by central government, local government and other public agencies relating to the context, circumstances and aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

The Panel has also accessed documents and other material from private individuals, corporate bodies and non-governmental organisations.

In total, the Panel reviewed over 450,000 pages of documentation from 84 organisations and individuals, in addition to audio-visual material.

Audio-visual material

The Panel has digitised a significant volume of audio-visual material from the time of the disaster. The Panel has recommended, in Part 3, that this material is permanently preserved at The National Archives. Two edited video clips - one illustrating the layout of the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough Stadium and one showing the events leading to the opening of Gate C - have been published in Part 1 of the online version of this Report.

Duplicated material

In a project of this complexity it is inevitable that some documents provided by contributing organisations will duplicate those provided by others. In such cases duplicated material is referenced once, but it will be inevitable that some references are duplicated. 

Documents discovered as part of the Panel process but not published on the Panel's website

To ensure transparency, the Panel has maintained a full audit of documents and material considered relevant for publication. Descriptions of all this material can be found in the master catalogue.

Extremely sensitive personal data

The Panel recognises that the disclosure of material relating to the deaths of 96 people necessarily involves sensitive personal data. The Panel discussed this issue with bereaved families within the HFSG, and their view was that all such information should be disclosed. While the Panel acknowledges the wishes of the bereaved families represented within the HFSG, a view which we believe to be shared by most of the bereaved families, some very sensitive personal data has not been disclosed to the public out of respect for those who died. Arrangements are in place, however, for individual families to receive unredacted information relevant to their family member(s) should they wish to do so on an individual basis after the publication of the Report.

The Panel required access to sensitive personal data that belonged to others involved in the disaster, including members of the emergency services, survivors and those who assisted at the scene. To access this material, an order was sought under the Data Protection Act 1998. The order was laid before Parliament on 20 May 2012 and formally 'made' on 25 July 2012.

Where disclosure does not 'add to public understanding', such sensitive personal data has been redacted from the disclosed documents.

Contributing organisations

Relevant contributing organisations and individuals were identified by the Panel and asked to undertake detailed searches for documents and other material concerning the disaster. There were several occasions when organisations were asked to conduct a second search and on a number of occasions this resulted in further information.

Some bereaved families responded to a request from the Panel for information.

In accessing for disclosure the significant amount of information not previously in the public domain, contributing organisations were asked to waive any entitlement to confidentiality and legal professional privilege. All public sector organisations approached by the Panel allowed unrestricted access to their documents and other material. The Panel is able to commend their response. In contrast, one private sector organisation, the Royal Sun Alliance Insurance Company (which was the insurer for Sheffield Wednesday Football Club in 1989) refused to waive its entitlement to privilege, thus denying the Panel access to its material. Strenuous efforts were made to persuade the company to allow the Panel confidential access to the relevant material, but it maintained its refusal. This is a matter of considerable regret to the Panel.

The Liverpool Law Society was the only other organisation that considered itself unable to provide unrestricted access to all the material it held for the Hillsborough Solicitors' Group Steering Committee. Legal advice provided to the Law Society and to the Panel confirmed that the legal professional privilege which was said to attach to some of the material was not theirs to waive, and despite considerable efforts the Panel was unable to assist them to find a way round the obstacle. The Law Society did however provide access to and arrange for the disclosure of other material held by them to which such privilege did not apply.

In keeping with the Panel's terms of reference and protocol, contributing organisations holding relevant documents and information were expected to arrange for that material to be archived and catalogued prior to disclosure to the Panel. In practice this did not happen and much of the material received by the Panel was neither archived nor catalogued. This task was carried out by a team of archivists working with the Panel.