In May 1989 following the Hillsborough disaster Superintendent Nettleship visited Humberside Police Headquarters , where he spoke to Mr. A. Charlesworth, Assistant Chief Constable, Humberside Police, and Chief Inspector M. Brown, West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police, concerning their own experience following the Bradford City fire, and the subsequent Committee of Enquiry.
Attached to this posting is a full PDF of the notes discussed in this meeting, which makes for some interesting reading both on the disaster itself and the inquiry which followed. Some points of interest in this PDF include:
(c) Conduct of the Tribunal
Despite the circumstances, the Bradford enquiry only lasted for 7 days, and both Mr. Charlesworth and Chief Inspector Brown emphasise that the manner in which tribunals deal with evidence is entirely different to a Court of Law. Once a witness is able to verify a particular point, the enquiry then moves on to the next subject, with a result that there is a “severe pruning” of witnesses in order to prevent duplicity and therefore save time. I think that we have probably already recognised this factor – as it would be clearly impossible for us to examine ALL the documents available in the time available.
The Bradford Tribunal was described as very much a “seat of the pants” affair – quite informal and (to repeat) the minimum number of witnesses required to verify a specific point.
(d) Response of the Force
Mr. J. Domaille, formerly Assistant Chief Constable Operations (now retired) presented the submission on behalf of the Force. Basically the stance which the Force adopted was as follows:
(i) Identify the cause of the fire.
(ii) Analyse all the events in order to identify any shortcomings in the police organisation/operation.
(iii) Take immediate steps to rectify the police deficiencies identified.
(iv) Include in their submission the fact that such measures had been taken (also making appropriate recommendations for any changes considered nationally).
It was considered that by”pre-empting” the criticism which was likely to be made by the tribunal, this would effectively “defuse” the situation by demonstrating that the Force had identified points (in the light of experience) where improvements could be made and had acted in advance of any formal recommendation.
Statement of Michael John Domaille
The events of Saturday 11 May 1985 I and tny senior officers have perused the statements, video film, photographs and other materials so far collated by the officers conducting the investigation into the fire and its causes and consequences -at Bradford City Football Club. To date, pending the findings of this Inquiry, our views are necessarily tentative, however, I ar: able to say: —
a) With respect to cause, we presently favour an accidental setting fire to combustible material apparently accumulated beneath the floorboards of the Main Stand over a number of years, presumably by the dropping of some means, of ignition. Certainly- no evidence warranting: a criminal prosecution has been- revealed: by our- investigation, and in particular no immediately material incident: of crowd misbehaviour has come to our attention.
b) With respect to consequences, our enquiries so far have led us to be satisfied with the efforts of the 142 police officers present to save life- Indeed, we consider the efforts made to rescue those at risk were- outstanding having particular regard to the locus concerned and to the suddenness and speed with which disabling smoke,, heat and then: flame- developed and spread. We have been- unable to discern any obvious ways- of saving more lives which may have been overlooked; by the officers- present given the limited facilities available to them. I hasten to add that many of those officers readily acknowledge the heroic and effective help given to them by other* persons; present including many members of the general public as soon as the true significance of the fire became apparent.
As. policemen, we could conceivably have identified: fire occurring at a ground during, a. match: as a potential- further risk to safety oxT the public: and our officers. There are, for example, references to fire risk at paragraph 2.4 of. an HMSO publication ‘entitled ‘Guide to Saiety at Sports: Grounds (Football)’ copies of which were available to us.
However, our collective practical experience of many years did not give rise to apprehension of a risk of fire, and in my own case I can say no other fix*e has. occurred in the course of a match at any of the grounds with which X have been; associated during, the whole of my career, and to my knowledge there has never been, a fire at Valley Parade throughout the past 80 years. We have relied upon the expertise of the Fire Service to provide advice to the County Council a.g- the body responsible for the issue of a Safety Certificate, with regard to the construction and management of grounds they have inspected, and concentrated our attention, upon crowd control policies and procedures, leaving the County Council as: the issuing authority to resolve any conflict between the measures suggested.
(iv) So far as was apparent to the Police, the financial, limitations remained throughout. Firstly it was allegedly difficult enough for the Club, to meet the hire charges of just 5. police officers for special duty, at each ‘ match, that is, L officer per 1000 spectators- Second, significant, ground improvement could apparently only be financed by the. Football Ground Trust,, and then with the willing and; responsible co-operation of the Police, see the letter- of the 2T June 1984: front Superintendent: Briggs and events preceding, and subsequent ta it as- set out: in his statement. Third,, the Club were seemingly unable to institute an effective system for stewardship, being apparently whollyreliant upon volunteers irrespective of age and ability* I should add that throughout the Club were ready to co-operate with the Police.
To read the full PDF of the meeting please click this link: bradford police memo