Recovering truth, informing justice
On 26 April 2016 the jury at the new inquests into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster determined that the 96 people who died were unlawfully killed, marking a major milestone in the bereaved families’ journey for justice. It is a campaign that has been informed and shaped by the work of Queen's Professor of Criminology, Phil Scraton.
Phil's in-depth research into the context, circumstances and aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster includes the publication of two influential reports, published in 1990 and 1995; numerous academic articles; and the much-acclaimed book Hillsborough: The Truth. His critical analysis of the investigations, inquiries and inquests into the controversial deaths of 96 men, women and children at an FA Cup Semi-Final in April 1989 was instrumental in the Home Secretary establishing the Hillsborough Independent Panel to review hundreds of thousands of documents held by over 80 organisations.
In January 2010 Phil was appointed to the Panel to head its research, based at Queen's, and was primary author of its 395-page report. He presented the Report's 153 key findings to over 300 bereaved family members at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral in September 2013. The Report, alongside the on-line archive of all disclosed documents, resulted in a 'double apology' to the families and survivors from the Prime Minister and Government ministers; a new criminal investigation; an Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation; the quashing of the 96 'accidental death' inquest verdicts; and the ordering of new inquests and a review of emergency planning across the UK.
Combining documentary analysis and qualitative research with families and survivors, Phil's work has been publicly recognised an exemplar of methodological innovation, policy relevance and public engagement. It has set new standards for truth recovery, corporate responsibility and institutional accountability. Phil won the inaugural Queen's Vice-Chancellor's Award for research impact in December 2012, and his work was highly commended at the 2013 THES national awards for research. In 2014 an ESPN/BBC documentary based on his work was nominated for an EMMY.
Phil provided advice to the families' legal teams during the Hillsborough inquests.