Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has reportedly instructed his lawyers to seek an apology from South Yorkshire Police over his “personal vilification” following The Sun’s coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.
MacKenzie issued an apology earlier this month after the Hillsborough Independent Panel found there was no evidence to verify “the serious allegations of exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence among Liverpool fans” during the disaster.
The now infamous Sun front page, published on 19 April 1989, was headlined THE TRUTH and was based on copy supplied by White's News Agency in Sheffield.
They based their report on interviews with un-named police sources, local Conservative MP Irvine Patnick and South Yorkshire Police Federation spokesperson Paul Middup.
It alleged that Liverpool fans had assaulted and urinated on police officers resuscitating the dying, stolen from the dead and sexually abused an unconscious young woman.
Writing in tomorrow’s Spectator, the former Sun editor speaks out for the first time in detail about his fateful decision to print the now infamous ‘THE TRUTH’ headline in the red-top the day after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
The terms of the apology and any compensation are to be debated, but MacKenzie tells of police patrols being increased around his house and the physical danger he faces in the city of Liverpool.
Kelvin admits that he was wrong, ‘but the people who have got away scot-free are South Yorkshire Police.’ He is seeking recompense for ‘the lies their officers told’.
MacKenzie was quoted saying:
Now I know — you know, we all know — that the fans were right. But it took 23 years, two inquiries, one inquest and research into 400,000 documents, many of which were kept secret under the 30-year no-publication rule, to discover there was a vast cover-up by South Yorkshire Police about the disaster. Where does that leave me?
He also suggests that other publications ran the same “copper-bottomed” story but The Sun was only one singled out:
Liverpool fans didn’t turn on other media, only the Sun. That has always puzzled me. Was it picked out because the paper had always backed Thatcher, while the city had always been pro-Labour?
While many of the allegations were first reported in the Sheffield Star the previous day, and they were carried in many other media outlets, The Sun went much further than any other title in presenting the allegations as fact. The coverage prompted a boycott of The Sun in Liverpool which continues to this day.
In his apology on 13 August, MacKenzie said:
Today I offer my profuse apologies to the people of Liverpool for that headline.
I too was totally misled. Twenty three ago I was handed a piece of copy from a reputable news agency in Sheffield in which a senior police officer and a senior local MP were making serious allegations against fans in the stadium.
I had absolutely no reason to believe that these authority figures would lie and deceive over such a disaster.
As the Prime Minister has made clear these allegations were wholly untrue and were part of a concerted plot by police officers to discredit the supporters thereby shifting the blame for the tragedy from themselves.
It has taken more than two decades, 400,000 documents and a two-year inquiry to discover to my horror that it would have been far more accurate had I written the headline The Lies rather than The Truth.
I published in good faith and I am sorry that it was so wrong.