Ex-MP Sir Irvine Patnick apologises over Hillsborough 'smears'

Sir Irvine Patnick says he is 'deeply sorry' Photo: PA wire

A former Conservative MP named as one of the sources behind The Sun's controversial coverage of the Hillsborough tragedy has said he is "deeply and sincerely sorry" for the part he played in the scandal.

Sir Irvine Patnick said he had been given "wholly inaccurate" information by some members of the police and was "appalled" at the extent of the cover-up surrounding the disaster.

But the former Tory MP for Sheffield Hallam said he "totally" accepted responsibility for repeating the information, which led to the tabloid newspaper's notorious front page story headlined The Truth.

In a statement issued through the Conservative Party, Sir Irvine said: "I would like to put on the record how appalled and shocked I was to discover the extent of the deceit and cover-up surrounding these events. It is now clear that the information I received from some police officers at the time was wholly inaccurate, misleading and plain wrong.

"However, I totally accept responsibility for passing such information on without asking further questions. So, many years after this tragic event, I am deeply and sincerely sorry for the part I played in adding to the pain and suffering of the victims' families."

Sir Irvine, 82, was named by the Hillsborough Independent Panel as one of the sources who briefed journalists that Liverpool fans were "drunk and aggressive" and forced entry into the football ground, contributing to the deadly crush.

The panel found the origin of The Sun's story, along with negative coverage in other newspapers, was a Sheffield-based news agency, which had been briefed by officers from South Yorkshire Police (SYP), a local Police Federation spokesman and Sir Irvine.

Their allegations were reported by White's News Agency and were based on meetings with police officers and interviews with Sir Irvine and Paul Middup, the secretary of the South Yorkshire Police Federation. The report states: "Mr Patnick based his comments on a conversation with police officers on the evening of the disaster while the officers were in considerable distress."

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, who wrote the headline, apologised and said he had been "totally misled".

After the revelations emerged a Labour MP wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron calling for the former government whip to be stripped of his knighthood over his "shameful" role in the aftermath of the disaster. Backbencher John Mann said: "The shameful and disgusting behaviour of Sir Irvine Patnick is a significant feature in the Hillsborough independent panel report and his knighthood should be removed immediately."