Phil Scraton PhD is Emeritus Professor in the School of Law, Queen’s University, Belfast. In 2013 he was Lowenstein Fellow at Amherst College, Massachusetts, USA and recently held visiting professorships at the Universities of Auckland, Monash, New South Wales and Sydney. His research includes: controversial deaths and the state; the rights of the bereaved and survivors in the aftermath of disasters; the politics of incarceration; childhood in societies transitioning from conflict. He has carried out research for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and for the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People. Widely published, his recent books are: ‘Childhood’ in ‘Crisis’?; Power, Conflict and Criminalisation; The Violence of Incarceration; The Incarceration of Women. He was Director of The Hillsborough Project 1989-95 and principal author of Hillsborough and After: The Liverpool Experience and No Last Rights: The Promotion of Myth and the Denial of Justice in the Aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster. He headed the research for the Hillsborough Independent Panel and was lead author of its 2013 Report, Hillsborough. Adviser to the families’ legal teams throughout the inquests, the new edition of Hillsborough: The Truth was published in 2016. Recently he was awarded, Freedom of the City of Liverpool and honorary Doctor of Laws by its university, his alma mater.
Plenary title: ‘Justice for the 96’: Researching Truth, Delivering Justice in the Aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster
This paper reflects primary, documentary and observational research conducted over three decades into the context, circumstances and aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster. On 15 April 1989 ninety-six men, women and children lost their lives at an FA Cup Semi-Final football match in Sheffield. Hundreds more were seriously injured, thousands traumatised and many have died prematurely as a direct consequence. The initial Hillsborough Project research reports (1990 and 1995) exposed the institutional failures of the initial investigations, inquests, appeals and reviews that followed also critically reviewing the prejudicial role played by influential, hostile elements within the media. What followed was a sustained campaign leading eventually to the unprecedented Hillsborough Independent Panel (2010-2012) and its ground breaking report, providing the foundation for criminal and Independent Police Complaints Commission investigations (2013-ongoing), the quashing of the ‘accidental death’ verdicts and new inquests. Concluding the longest inquests in legal history (2013-2016), the jury found that all who died were killed unlawfully. It levelled twenty-five severe criticisms against those in authority, the majority against the police, and found no evidence that fans’ behaviour had contributed in any way to the deaths. The paper reveals the egregious failures of those in successive governments, the civil service, and state institutions. It raises profound concerns regarding the potential of long-term, critical social research within an academy increasingly conditioned by formulaic research assessments and inhibited by financial and ‘ethical’ constraints.
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