Development & Alumni Relations Office 


23 September 2016

Professor Phil Scraton, the Queen’s Professor who played a central role in uncovering the truth about Britain’s worst sporting tragedy on 15 April 1989 – the Hillsborough disaster – has received the Freedom of Liverpool, alongside the 96 victims and former Liverpool FC manager Kenny Dalglish.

Professor Scraton’s book Hillsborough: The Truth is acclaimed as the definitive account of the context, circumstances and aftermath of the disaster.

A longstanding campaigner and supporter of the Hillsborough families, he led the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s research team and was advisor to the families' legal teams throughout the inquests, which ruled that those who died were unlawfully killed.

On what was an emotional evening, the families were greeted with rapturous applause as they picked up medals on behalf of their loved ones, but the biggest cheer was reserved for Professor Scraton. It was his tireless campaigning that eventually led to the fresh inquests into the deaths, the unlawful killing verdicts from a jury in Warrington and the continuing criminal investigation.

Speaking before the service, Phil Scraton told The Guardian: “On the one hand it’s a bittersweet experience. We should not be here, those people should never have died, and so I cannot help but think that the most important part of tonight is the commemoration of those who died.

“From my own point of view, I did a job. I’m an academic, I’m from Liverpool. I knew from the outset intuitively what I felt had happened at Hillsborough, and I worked on it. I felt I should never give up because I don’t think you can commit to something like this just for a short time.”

On receiving the award, Professor Scraton said: “The Freedom of the City is a rare honour afforded to few individuals. I accept it with humility and gratitude to the City Council, the Hillsborough families and the people of Liverpool.

“To receive it alongside the awards to the 96 men, women and children who died at Hillsborough recognises the impact of the academic research and personal support for families and survivors over three decades. Yet it is their unbending determination and resilience to achieve justice for their loved ones that has been remarkable, and I am privileged to have played a part in revealing the truth.”

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, said: “Phil Scraton’s meticulous and sustained efforts over the past two decades played a crucial role in uncovering the truth about Hillsborough. His research has had a profound impact on the bereaved families and survivors of the disaster and resonates with people around the world. This is a fine example of how academic research and analysis can bring about fundamental changes in our society.”

The Freedom of the City ceremony took place on Thursday 22 September at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool Councillor Roz Gladden, together with Mayor Joe Anderson. Each of the families received a specially designed scroll and a unique medal with the name of their loved one inscribed on it. It is the first time the Freedom of the City of Liverpool has been awarded posthumously.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: “When we announced we intended to give the 96 and the key Hillsborough campaigners Freedom of the City back in May, we received an overwhelming reaction from people who were proud that Liverpool was acknowledging these individuals in this special way.

“The Hillsborough campaign was a long, heart-breaking journey for all involved. It seemed fitting that after the latest inquests brought the families the truth and justice outcome that they had fought so hard for, we mark this monumental moment by awarding the 96, and those outstanding individuals who have given them their support, with the city’s highest honour.

“The 96 paid the ultimate price for the failings and actions of others, and I hope this tribute will show their families and friends that this city will never forget them, and that we thank those individuals who fought for the truth and played a pivotal role in the 27 year campaign.”

Former Bishop of Liverpool, The Right Reverend James Jones, will also receive the Freedom of the City in the New Year.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) at Queen’s Communications Office, tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5310.


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