Based on preliminary police briefings, The Sun blamed the Hillsborough catastrophe completely on Liverpool supporters, accusing them of being inebriated and, in some cases, purposefully impeding the rescue response. It was claimed that supporters urinated on a police officer and that money was taken from victims. These allegations never proved to be true but they did contribute to the stigma surrounding supporters.
In fact, research has shown that 95% of fans at Hillsborough were not drinking alcohol before or during the match. And only one fan has ever been convicted of manslaughter over the disaster. He had no role in the accident but was found guilty because he failed to give aid to those in need of help. A new inquest into the deaths is expected to start later this year.
The Sun's coverage of the disaster included many allegations which turned out to be false, such as claims that fans attacked officers with chairs and bottles, that there were more fans than tickets available and that it took 15 minutes for help to arrive. But despite this, the paper managed to create enough public fear to lead to the destruction of thousands of fans' lives by pushing for an exit fee of £10 ($15) per adult and £2.50 ($4) per child. This led to the death of at least three people and caused serious injury to others.
The Sun apologised again today for its coverage of the Hillsborough catastrophe in 1989, after Liverpool fans were exonerated of culpability by an inquest jury. The newspaper had been heavily criticized for its reporting of the disaster, in which 95 people died.
The Sun had previously published apology letters from four of its journalists who had been responsible for some of the paper's coverage of the event. Those writers included John Wakeham, who now works for the paper as chief political commentator; and Peter Walker, who died in 1994 at the age of 49.
The fourth journalist, Paul Lewis, later wrote a book about his experiences covering the tragedy, including the effect it had on him personally. He has not published any further material on the subject since then.
The first three journalists received praise from those who knew them for their letters. However, there was no public acknowledgement of responsibility from The Sun itself until today.
In a statement issued through its lawyers, The Sun said: "We deeply regret that our journalism has caused such pain to the families involved. We are satisfied that justice has been done and we would like to put this matter behind us."
It is not the first time that The Sun has been accused of negligence during a news story.
Findings The Hillsborough Independent Panel determined on September 12, 2012, that no Liverpool supporters were involved in any manner for the catastrophe, and that the principal reason was a "lack of police control." Crowd safety had been "compromised at every level," and overcrowding difficulties had been documented two years prior. The report also noted significant deficiencies in the operation of both the stadium security and emergency medical systems during the match.
The first reports after the disaster suggested that Liverpool fans were to blame for it. Police officers were reportedly told to move away from the front gates so that Liverpool fans could enter first. If this order was given, it must have come from high up within the force.
An initial inquiry by the British government concluded that Liverpool fans caused the disaster by charging the fence after the final whistle. This conclusion was based on photographs taken at the scene which showed how far some fans had climbed the fence. It should be noted that this inquiry took place almost immediately after the disaster and there were not enough witnesses or evidence available at that time to reach any definitive conclusions. Since then more evidence has emerged which suggests that this allegation is false.
The official cause of death for 96 people died instantly or shortly thereafter. A further 449 people suffered injuries serious enough to require hospital treatment. Of these, 330 people were treated at the stadium and 119 people were taken to hospitals by ambulance.