'Get the inquests done early... or they'll all have been in the pub': How Hillsborough lawyer insulted the victims' families he was supposed to be representing

  • Doug Fraser also told the coroner he thought some families were 'hotheads'
  • He suggested cut-off point for evidence should 'probably' be even earlier than planned
  • Independent Panel said it was 'a surprisingly critical, if not contemptuous, view of some of the bereaved families he represented'
  • Families said they felt 'shocked' and 'betrayed', others said he seemed 'out of his depth' in court

Doug Fraser argued for an inquest into the Hillsborough Disaster to be held at 9am to prevent the family of one victim from being able to 'go to the pub first', it has emerged

Doug Fraser said a Hillsborough inquest should be held early so a family didn't go to the pub

A solicitor who represented the families of Hillsborough victims after the disaster told the coroner he thought his clients just 'wanted their 15 minutes of fame'.

Doug Fraser, who was on the Hillsborough Steering Committee, following the FA Cup semi-final where 96 fans died, argued for one inquest to be held at 9am to prevent the family of one victim from being able to 'go to the pub first', it has emerged.

The victims' families have now called for the lawyer  to resign after the offensive comments came to light following further study of the newly published Independent Panel report.

The report also showed that Mr Fraser suggested the cut-off point for evidence should 'probably' be nine minutes earlier than the 3.15pm time eventually imposed by coroner Dr Stefan Popper.

Several families wanted this cut-off point pushed back to allow for a thorough investigation.

Documents reveal Mr Fraser, who is now Liverpool’s deputy coroner, told South Yorkshire Police and the coroner some families were 'hotheads'.

The panel was critical of Mr Fraser, saying his behaviour suggested 'a surprisingly critical, if not contemptuous, view of some of the bereaved families whose interests he represented'.

The comments were made in February 1990 when Mr Fraser met with the coroner, South Yorkshire Police and the force’s lawyer Peter Metcalf to decide on the format of inquests.

A note disclosed to the panel of the meeting records Mr Fraser saying: 'There will be some families who want their, someone said, their 15 minutes of fame.

'I suppose to some extent they are going to have to be given that opportunity aren’t they? I think the vast majority will go through very smoothly but I think that there will be one or two who are going [sic] problems.

'There will be one or two hotheads who will look for the ulterior motive behind this. The vast majority will accept it in the spirit in which it’s done. The press will do the same.'

Later in the conversation Mr Fraser and the coroner discussed start times for inquests and he suggested one family should have an early start in the morning at 9am. The minutes quote him saying: 'There is one family who would swell the coffers of the local hostelry before they arrived.'

Today Trevor Hicks, president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost his daughters Vicki, 15, and Sarah, 19, at the tragedy said Mr Fraser should resign.

He said: 'This is a form of betrayal, I am staggered.

'He should consider his position. Any credibility he might have had has gone out of the window.

'I thought I was beyond shock after last week but I am so disappointed with him.'

He said Mr Fraser was another name to add to the list of people who had let down the families of the 96.

Hillsborough victims' families have called for lawyer Doug Fraser to resign after offensive comments came to light following more indepth study of the newly published Independent Panel report

Hillsborough victims' families have called for lawyer Doug Fraser to resign after offensive comments came to light following more indepth study of the newly published Independent Panel report

Sheila Coleman, of Hillsborough Justice Campaign, added: 'I was not impressed with his conduct at the inquests, I felt he was clearly out of his depth.'

Mr Fraser represented the families while working for Runcorn-based Silverman Livermore solicitors which he joined in 1982. He remains a senior lawyer at the firm.

He became involved after Mr Hicks approached his then boss Sir Harry Livermore, who was involved in the legal cases after the Heysel disaster.

Sir Harry died and Mr Fraser took over the case.

His profile on Silverman Livermore’s website boasts of his role in 'protecting the interests of those who had been bereaved or injured' at the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

In mid-September Dr Popper wrote to the Hillsborough Steering Committee to request details of witnesses the families wanted calling at the resumed inquests.

Ten days later Dr Popper recorded a conversation with Mr Fraser in which the families’ reactions to the interim inquest were discussed.

Trevor Hicks, president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost his daughters Vicki, 15, and Sarah, 19, described Mr Fraser's comments as a form of betrayal

Trevor Hicks, president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost his daughters Vicki, 15, and Sarah, 19, described Mr Fraser's comments as a form of betrayal

The note of the meeting states Mr Fraser considered 'it [mini-inquest stage] went very well', finishing 'within a few minutes of the scheduled time over a two-and-a-half week period'.

He stated that a 'few' families, however, 'had expected more and they were not entirely happy with the way that he had asked any questions... but he confirmed that the vast majority of families were very satisfied with the way the inquests had been done'.

This was clearly not the view of the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

The documents include minutes of a meeting between HFSG and Sir David Napley, who had represented other families at another inquest on October 2, 1990.

At the meeting it was stated that the mini-inquests had been limited to 'who', 'when' and 'where' and 'nothing more apart from the alcohol levels was raised'.

HFSG representatives said Dr Popper had been 'quite clearly aggressive' towards families despite their 'polite' requests for information on the organisation of the inquests.

The HFSG expressed concern about the power of the coroner, the lack of information received by families , that 'fundamental issues appertaining to this disaster' would remain unresolved and about their lawyers’ strength of commitment.

According to Dr Popper’s notes on October 12 Mr Fraser informed him that, in fact, several families had 'some small queries on the individual inquests and [asked] was I proposing to deal with these and if so when'.

Dr Popper asked Mr Fraser if families’ queries from the mini-inquests were substantial. Mr Fraser 'said he didn’t think so... as far as he could recollect they were relatively minor matters'.

In the same telephone conversation Mr Fraser suggested a 3.06pm cut-off for evidence.

Mr Fraser told the coroner ahead of the inquests that 'There will be one or two hotheads who will look for the ulterior motive behind this'

Mr Fraser told the coroner ahead of the inquests that 'There will be one or two hotheads who will look for the ulterior motive behind this'

Dr Popper states in his note: 'I explained to him that I was not intending to go over all the ground of the rescue.

'Mr Frazer [sic] agreed with this. He said he thought in his view probably six minutes past three was the cut-off point.

'I said I felt that it might be a few minutes beyond that but that was basically what I had in mind.'

Dr Popper recorded having told Mr Fraser: 'I said that I thought that when we got down to it he would be quite satisfied indeed.

'I had the feeling that we might be doing a more thorough job than he was expecting.'

Soon after, Dr Popper announced he was imposing the 3.15pm cut-off point.

A number of families then wrote to the Hillsborough Steering Committee requesting the interim inquests be re-opened and the 3.15pm cut-off point be pushed back.

Mr Fraser, who is now the Deputy Coroner for Liverpool, refused to comment.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now