Development & Alumni Relations Office 


06 November 2017

Among the tracks shared by Queen's Emeritus Professor Phil Scraton on the BBC's long-running Desert Island Discs (on Sunday 05 November) were songs by Bruce Springsteen, Joan Armatrading and Gerry & The Pacemakers.

The School of Law criminologist, author and lead researcher of the Hillsborough Independent Panel also revealed to host Kirsty Young during the programme that he had received death threats on his home phone number (which was ex-directory) during the lengthy campaign to establish the truth about the 1989 Hillsborough soccer tragedy.

He had also faced institutional pressure from his employers – though not from Queen's, Professor Scraton stressed.

Born into a working class family in Wallasey in the Wirral in 1949, Phil Scraton attended a seminary at the age of 12, having decided he wanted to become a priest. Deciding at 16 that the religious life was not for him he worked as a bus conductor before attending Liverpool University where he read Sociology.

Professor Scraton spent 28 years researching and writing about the disaster which claimed 96 lives; his book Hillsborough: The Truth was first published in 1999. The Hillsborough Independent Panel's 2012 report which he authored led to a second inquest which concluded in April 2016 that the 96 people who died had been unlawfully killed and that fans behaviour had not contributed to the disaster in any way.

"To be honest, in 2000, I felt I had let the families down,” said Phil. “I had written two reports, I had written the first edition of Hillsborough: The Truth and nothing came of it and they had not been vindicated in the public eye."

"The most important thing about the Hillsborough Independent Panel was the word 'independent' and, although we were serviced by the Government departments, the panel was in the driving seat," he told the programme.

In 2016, following the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report, fresh inquests were held which found that the 96 soccer fans had been unlawfully killed.

In September 2016 Professor Scraton, received the Freedom of Liverpool, alongside the 96 victims and former Liverpool FC manager Kenny Dalglish. And in May of this year, Phil Scraton picked up a BAFTA for his part in the documentary, Hillsborough, in the 'best single documentary' category.

Included in his selection of music were tracks by Bruce Springsteen (Chimes of Freedom), Billie Holiday (Strange Fruit), Labi Siffre (Something inside so Strong) and Joan Armatrading (Love and Affection). It also featured You'll Never Walk Alone by Gerry & The Pacemakers.

“This is the song that really goes to the heart of Liverpool Football Club and the heart of the families. Every single memorial service since 1989 …has ended with it. It is a Merseyside hymn.”

Not surprisingly, You'll Never Walk Alone was also the piece of music Phil said he would want if he only had one selection. “The idea of self for me,” said Phil, “is not that I don’t have one, but it is that I am connected and I think that we never walk alone.”  

In addition to the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, Phil’s chosen book was The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell. His luxury was one of his guitars which he admitted to struggling to play well!

Phil and his partner, Deena, have lived in Belfast since 2003. He has two grown-up sons from his first marriage.

Phil Scraton's Desert Island Discs can be heard via the BBC iPlayer.

General inquiries to Gerry Power – Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast, tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.

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