Backlash forces uni honours U-turn

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Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe © BBC News; © University of Liverpool/Twitter

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe © BBC News; © University of Liverpool/Twitter

The University of Liverpool has postponed its plans to award a top police commissioner an honorary doctorate following criticism by Hillsborough campaigners, protest groups and members of the public.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Head of the Metropolitan Police Service, was due to receive an honorary degree at an awards ceremony on December 1st, however this has been suspended until further notice.

Patrick Hackett, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool issued a statement on the university’s website explaining the decision. He said: “Given the ongoing inquests and investigations relating to the Hillsborough disaster, the University and the Commissioner have decided to postpone the degree ceremony pending the outcome of the investigations.”

Mr Hackett continued: “[We] are deeply sorry if we have inadvertently caused any distress to the Hillsborough families.  All of us feel great sensitivity to the families at this difficult time.”

Sir Bernard, who  was previously Merseyside Police’s Chief Constable, worked for South Yorkshire Police when the Hillsborough disaster, which claimed 96 lives, took place in 1989. He is currently facing an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over his role in the disaster.

The university said it offered the degree to Sir Bernard two years ago, recognising his contribution to Merseyside as Chief Constable and his services to national security

The Liverpool Class Action, which describes itself as an ‘autonomous anarchist group’, issued a statement over plans to honour the most senior police officer in the UK.

It said: “We find it astonishing and shameful that a University based in ‘Liverpool’ would consider awarding an honorary doctorate to Bernard Hogan-Howe, whilst the inquest into the disaster has not yet concluded, and whilst an investigation into his own conduct has not yet taken place.”

Many people took to Twitter to vent their fury over the issue with some calling for a complete cancellation of the award.

Following the university’s apology, Robin Powell tweeted: “Nowhere close to good enough. Cancel, and apologise properly for your (University of Liverpool) crass, utterly thoughtless actions.”

About Josh Kelsall, JMU Journalism