Part 3: The Permanent Archive for the Hillsborough Disaster

Assembled and proposed to be held permanently for the benefit of the families and the public by the Hillsborough Independent Panel


3.1 The Hillsborough Independent Panel's remit, set out in its terms of reference, provides that it should 'in line with established practice, work with the Keeper of Public Records in preparing options for establishing an archive of Hillsborough documentation, including a catalogue of all central governmental and local public agency information and a commentary on any information withheld for the benefit of the families or on legal or other grounds'. 

3.2 Accordingly, Part 3 of this Report describes the present position regarding the documents provided to the Panel and outlines its recommendations for the Permanent Archive.[1] The proposed Permanent Archive for the Hillsborough Disaster covers the period leading up to the events of 15 April 1989 until the private prosecutions in 2000, as assembled by the work of the Hillsborough Independent Panel 2010-12.

3.3 It comprises the master catalogue and the documents in digital form (these provide the foundation for the Panel's Report and are disclosed on the Panel's website) and the records discovered in their original format (hard copy and audio-visual). Provision has been made to ensure that all material disclosed to the Panel is preserved permanently. It is accessible, digitally or in original copy, to bereaved families, survivors and the public.

3.4 Given the unified digital access for the public via the web, the Panel considers there is no requirement to hold original documents and other material in a single place, provided they are catalogued and are available.

3.5 The main access is digital. The Permanent Archive of documents and other materials in hard copy is proposed as a Distributed Archive combining central government records transferred to The National Archives at Kew, and local records transferred to Sheffield or to Liverpool as appropriate.
3.6 The digital and hard-copy documents and materials form a lasting national memorial to those who died, survived or were affected by the tragedy. They provide the most complete record of events available, disclosing the decisions taken and actions progressed by those involved throughout an extended period before and since the disaster.

The Permanent Archive

3.7 The material disclosed to the Panel has been provided from an extensive range of sources, including central government departments, wider public authorities, non-governmental organisations, charities and individuals involved with the context, circumstances and aftermath of the disaster. Sources also include national and local media.

3.8 The Panel has catalogued and digitised over 25,000 documents that have directly informed the Report in order to add to public understanding of the context, circumstances and consequences of the disaster and why no satisfactory resolution of the issues raised by the families and survivors has been achieved.

Development and content

3.9 The development of the Permanent Archive, both digital and hard copy, has been achieved by identifying the organisations involved before, during and after the disaster, and obtaining information not revealed to the families or to the public from those organisations and by the previous inquiries and other processes.
3.10 On 17 April 1989 Lord Justice Taylor was appointed by the Home Secretary to conduct an Inquiry into what happened at Hillsborough and to make recommendations regarding crowd control and crowd safety at sports events. Following evidence gathering by the investigating police force (West Midlands Police), written submissions, commissioned reports and oral hearings, LJ Taylor published an Interim Report on 1 August 1989, less than four months after the disaster. This was followed by a more generic Final Report, with minimal focus on the events at Hillsborough, published on 18 January 1990.

3.11 The documents and other material relied on by LJ Taylor, particularly in writing the Interim Report, have been disclosed to the Panel. Using this range of evidence the Panel sought and accessed further material relating to the period 1981 to 1989, focusing particularly on the condition of the stadium and structural modifications following serious overcrowding and injury in 1981.

3.12 The Panel also accessed further documents concerning the investigation and Inquiry conducted by LJ Taylor and the range of legal and inquisitorial processes that followed: civil actions; inquests; criminal investigations; disciplinary inquiries; judicial reviews; and judicial scrutiny.

3.13 Over 80 organisations, and a number of individuals, have disclosed documents and materials to the Archive. These include: central government departments (including the Cabinet Office, the Attorney General's Office and the Crown Prosecution Service); the South Yorkshire Police; the West Midlands Police; the Coroners' Offices; the emergency services; the health authorities; and the local authorities in Liverpool and Sheffield. Bereaved families and survivors have also made documents available to the Panel (see the master catalogue and Appendix 2 of this Report).

3.14 The Archive is the product of an active search process conducted by the Panel. This required negotiation with the organisations and individuals concerned, including central government departments whose records are classed as public records.[2]

[1] The protocol accompanying the Panel's terms of reference says: 'The scope of the disclosure process is intended to cover all documentation held by central government, local government and other public agencies which relates directly to events surrounding the Hillsborough tragedy up to and including the Taylor report, the Lord Stuart-Smith review of Hillsborough papers in 1998-99 and the private prosecution in 2000. The relevant agencies include the police, ambulance service, fire service, coroner and Sheffield City Council'.
[2] The Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967. Subsequent legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act 2000 has superseded the access provisions of the Acts and a reduced 20-year period (instead of 30 years) for transferring records to the Public Record System is also being introduced from 2013. See