Phil Scraton, the academic who led crucial research into the Hillsborough disaster, has declined an OBE in protest at those who “remained unresponsive” to efforts to pursue justice for victims and their families.
Ninety-six people died and several hundred were injured in the worst sporting disaster in British history at the Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield in 1989.
The professor of criminology at Queen’s University Belfast began researching the disaster soon after it happened, publishing the first edition of Hillsborough: The Truth in 1999. His book, which is highly critical of how the disaster was handled, is considered to be the definitive account of the event and aftermath.
In 2009 the Hillsborough Independent Panel was established, with Professor Scraton leading its research team. The panel confirmed criticism of how the police handled the event; leading to two criminal investigations.
After an inquest lasting more than two years, in which Professor Scraton acted as a consultant to the families’ lawyers, the jury’s verdict exonerated Liverpool fans and declared that the deaths were due to the gross negligence of the police and emergency services.
Professor Scraton – who had been nominated for an OBE in the Queen’s New Year's Honours List – said in a statement: “Until 2009, and despite compelling evidence, successive governments declined to pursue a thorough, independent review of the context, consequences and aftermath of the disaster. This changed as a direct result of the families’ and survivors’ brave, persistent campaign.”
“I could not receive an honour on the recommendation of those who remained unresponsive to the determined efforts of bereaved families and survivors to secure truth and justice.”
He also commented that he could not accept an honour tied by name to the British Empire, given that as an academic he remains a “strong critic” of imperialism and its legacy.
Professor Scraton, who recently wrote for Times Higher Education about his experiences researching and campaigning over Hillsborough, has previously been given the Freedom of the City of Liverpool, the Political Studies Association’s Campaigner of the Year Award, and an honorary doctorate in laws from the University of Liverpool.