Hillsborough : Information Work and Helping People – July 21 2015

Jan Parry , CILIP’s President, gave a talk to NetIKX at the British Dental Association on the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989 and her role with the Hillsborough Independent Panel set up in 2009 to oversee the release of documents arising from the tragedy in which 96 people lost their lives at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest held at Hillsborough, the home ground of Sheffield Wednesday FC. It was a very thought provoking talk which was received in near silence. Jan began by outlining the previous signals of potential disaster that had occurred in the 1980’s when serious ‘crushing’ incidents took place in the “pens” – standing areas in front of the West Stand accessed by gates on Lepping Lanes. She then talked about the day in question where Liverpool fans arrived late after being delayed by roadworks on the M62, traffic flowed along Leppings Lane until 38 minutes before the kick off and there was no managed queues at the turnstiles. The “pens”  were full 10 minutes before the match started. There was a lack of signs and stewarding to direct fans to other standing areas. At 3:00pm  crowds were still outside the turnstiles and the police Chief Superintendant in charge – who had been appointed to oversee policing on the day a little before the semi-final event itself –  gave an order to open the gates. There was a rush of fans towards the “pens” – people at the front were pushed forward, crushing and fatalities took place quickly. At 3:06pm the game was stopped. Then there was a Police Control Box Meeting at 3:15pm. The gymnasium became a temporary mortuary and witness statements started to be taken.

Official investigations began – Lord Justice Taylor (1990); West Midlands Police investigated South Yorks Police (1990); The Inquest (1990); Lord Justice Smith Scrutiny (1998). On the 20th anniversary memorial Andy Burnham (then a government minister) called for the early release of all documents. The Hillsborough Independent Panel was set up. Jan’s role was to undertake research and families disclosure :- oversee document discovery; manage information; consult the families. It began with finding family information – there were 3 established groups of families and all the other families as well.

There were lots of issues. Significantly, there had been a big impact on the mental health of the families involved in the tragedy. Also, regarding documents – that is, getting hold of them, it needed real persuasion to obtain them. Following on from that the documents had to be scanned, digitised, catalogued and redacted on a secure system. This called for researchers with medical knowledge too. What came out of this great exercise ?

In essence, the last valid safety certificate for the football stadium was issued in 1979; the code word for a “major incident” was never used; there was poor communication between ALL agencies; there was minimal medical treatment at the ground; witness statements had been changed; information on “The Sun’s” notorious leading article was obtained. Having achieved so much a disclosure day was put in the calendar – 12th September 2012. Again, the families were put first and informed that 41 victims could have lived.

On Disclosure Day itself PM David Cameron publicly apologised for the tragedy. The report was put on the website. Note that this website is a permanent archive for the documents : http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk Disclosure had quite an impact – Sir Norman Bettinson (Chief Constable of South York at the time of the tragedy) resigned; the original inquests were quashed. Now there are new inquests and inquiries. Lord Justice Golding started a new Inquest in March 2014. There is an IPCC investigation and a Police investigation into misconduct or criminal behaviour by police officers post-tragedy. Coroners Rules 1984 have been tightened up regarding consistency of classes of documents. Police Force records have been put under legislative control. Crucially, for the families and Information Professionals records discovery and information management delivered the truth.

Jan showed a couple of video clips during her talk these are available from the Report pages online but you need to scroll down to the bottom of the page :










Rob Rosset





July 2015 Seminar: Hillsborough – Information Work and Helping People and NetIKX AGM


We welcomed Jan Parry, President of CILIP, to talk about her role in the Hillsborough Inquiry. This meeting was preceded by the NetIKX AGM. Jan Parry explained how, after 23 years, records and information revealed the truth about the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster. She was the only Information Professional on the secretariat of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, whose report in 2012 revealed what was found in over 450,000 documents they reviewed.

Jan took us through the events and moments leading to the tragedy and its aftermath, including video footage, and talked about the formation of the Panel and its work, together with the work of the information professionals involved in the background. The work has led to two new ongoing inquiries and a new inquest.


Jan Parry is CILIP’s current President and she is also Chair of the Network of Government Library and Information Specialists (NGLIS). Jan had a long library and information career within the Civil Service. She started in the Health and Safety Executive working in the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate Library. She managed two libraries and then moved on to top-level government work, implementing a Whitehall wide ministerial briefing system. She joined the Home Office in 2001 and worked on various programmes and projects, including the Tackling Gangs programme, Home Office Reform and developing an Information Centre out of the Home Office Library. In 2009 Jan was asked be part of the secretariat of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, where she had to find all the bereaved families of the 96 who died at the disaster and plan the final Panel disclosure at Liverpool Cathedral.

Time and Venue

2pm on 21st July 2015, The British Dental Association, 64 Wimpole Street, London W1G 8YS

Pre Event Information

Learning Objectives
. Recognising the role of records discovery and records management
. Appreciating the significance of information management and advocacy
. Understanding the importance of planned public disclosure


Not currently available




See our blog report: Hillsborough : Information Work and Helping People

Study Suggestions

You may want to read more by Jan Parry: