Appendix 3: Research process and method

Disclosure and access to documents

The initial phase of the research was conducted on hard-copy original or photocopied documents held in Sheffield or at the Home Office. The next phase of the content analysis was conducted by accessing the digitised versions of documents held on a secure site.

While all documents disclosed to the Panel are not referenced specifically in the Report, each document has been reviewed and analysed as part of the research process. The Panel is aware that some documents include personal opinions of individuals, and statements about individuals, where those concerned have not had the opportunity to respond to comments or criticism. In reading the disclosed documents it is important to be sensitive to this situation.

Medical evidence

The assessment of the evidence on causation of death, central to the preliminary hearings or mini-inquests, was based primarily on the records of the post mortem examinations carried out on the deceased. These records are personal medical records, and as such have been treated as confidential by the Panel. 

Because of the significance of this evidence and the concerns raised by bereaved families, the Panel's medically qualified member scrutinised the records, summarising their content in aggregate. This scrutiny revealed features previously the subject of comment in individual cases but that had not been assessed. The Panel received the helpful advice of a highly experienced and senior professor of forensic pathology.

The disclosed post mortem reports revealed a broad pattern of evidence of prolonged survival in a substantial proportion of the deceased (see Chapter 5). The outcome for those alive but unconscious due to partial asphyxiation was dependent on what happened to them during this period, including the prompt availability of properly equipped first-aid personnel and correct positioning. 

The material disclosed to the Panel included the schedule of original data that had been used for an analysis which resulted in a claim that there was a link between later arrival in the ground and a raised blood alcohol level amongst the deceased. Initially, the Panel reproduced the original analysis, the results of which are described in detail in Chapter 5. Prompted by the results it carried out further analysis of the original data.

Factual accuracy checking

A process of factual accuracy checking was conducted with South Yorkshire Police, the South Yorkshire West District Coroner, Yorkshire Ambulance Service and Sheffield City Council as the main contributing organisations. Each organisation was provided with sections of text showing extracts from the documents it provided to ensure that the text was a factually accurate representation.

The contributing organisations met with Panel members to discuss the text, but were not given hard copy or online access outside the meetings. In keeping with the principle of 'families first', under which the bereaved families are the first to access the Panel's Report, the contributing organisations were not provided with the Panel's interpretations of the documents.

Where appropriate, and based only on factual accuracy rather than interpretation, modifications were made to the text. Objections raised that were considered as matters of interpretation were discounted. The Panel is grateful to the main contributing organisations for their participation in this process.