Maurice O’Brien “left” the UK Reading Chronicle following a suspension and an apology for a controversial front-page article that falsely accused hooliganism for the 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy that killed 96.
The Liverpool Echo reported that its sources said O’Brien was fired after an internal investigation.
An April 3 statement from the Chronicle‘s publisher didn’t say if O’Brien was fired or quit, instead simply saying O’Brien “left.”
The managing director for the newspaper’s publisher, Berkshire Media Group’s Keith McIntyre said, “Maurice has left the company,” according to the Press Gazette.
As iMediaEthics previously reported, the Chronicle apologized last month for its March 20 article, “The Other Face of Football,” which suggested hooliganism was to blame for the Hillsborough tragedy, where 96 Liverpool football fans died. The tragedy is considered “Britain’s deadliest sporting disaster.”
The Reading Football Club suspended its relationship with the newspaper after the article, which it called “an unwarranted and sensationalised attack” that also “completely misrepresents the vast majority of our fans.” Likewise, the Hillsborough Family Support Group’s chairman slammed the article. Both the newspaper’s publisher and the editor, O’Brien, apologized for the article. O’Brien was later suspended over the incident, Press Gazette reported.
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Attorney General’s Office investigated
And, the UK Attorney General’s office investigated the report for possible Contempt of Court, as there are forthcoming “inquests into the tragedy,” the Liverpool Echo reported. Attorney general Dominic Grieve called the article “ill-judged,” but ultimately not in contempt.
The attorney general’s office sent iMediaEthics the following statement about its investigation, which it also sent to the Echo:
“We had a number of complaints about a front page article of the Reading Chronicle’s which appeared to link hooliganism to the Hillsborough disaster.
“The Attorney was asked to consider bringing contempt proceedings.
“He can only do this if he thinks that the publication creates a substantial risk of serious prejudice to the inquest proceedings.
“In this case he has concluded that however ill-judged the remark may have been, he does not consider that the test is met in this case. He considers any juror reading the article would not be prejudiced from impartially assessing the evidence he or she hears at the inquest.
We’ve also e-mailed O’Brien at his Reading Chronicle e-mail address for comment.
Hat Tip: Guardian