UK

New Year's Honours: Trevor Hicks and Margaret Aspinall, Hillsborough Campaigners, Made CBEs

30/12/2014 22:10 GMT | Updated 30/12/2014 22:59 GMT

Two campaigners who were a driving force in the battle to get justice for those killed in the Hillsborough disaster have been made CBEs.

Trevor Hicks lost his daughters Sarah, 19, and Victoria, 15, while Margaret Aspinall lost her 18-year-old son James on April 15, 1989.

On that day, an exit gate was opened allowing hundreds of fans in to already-packed central pens of Sheffield Wednesday's home ground, causing a crush that ultimately killed 96 Liverpool FC fans.

But inquests into deaths largely cleared the authorities of blame and the victims' families suffered years of people saying or implying the disaster was the fans' fault.

Mr Hicks and Mrs Aspinall were key members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG), which has fought for justice in the face of "outrageous provocation and injustice", overturning the original verdicts and leading to new, ongoing inquests.

hicks aspinall

Trevor Hicks (left), Margaret Aspinall (centre) and Mr Hicks' former wife Jenni Hicks outside the High Court in London

MP Andy Burnham, a major supporter of the HFSG's campaign, told HuffPost UK: "The dignity and determination of all the Hillsborough families, in the face of outrageous provocation and injustice, has left a deep impression on people here and around the world.

"They embody everything that is best about our country and their fight will in the end change it for the better.

"These awards will be seen as a gesture of apology and reconciliation from a British Establishment which failed these families, and an entire city, so badly."

After years of the campaigning by the HFSG, the Hillsborough Independent Panel issued a final report in 2012, raising questions about the role of the authorities in the disaster.

A jury is currently hearing the new inquests which are closely scrutinising the safety regime at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium, the role of the local council, and the planning and response of emergency services including the police and ambulance service.

Story continues beneath slideshow

Hillsborough memorial service

Two investigations are being carried out in to the aftermath of the disaster, one led by police and one headed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Both Mrs Aspinall, HFSG chair, and Mr Hicks, its president, noted the contradiction in being made CBEs by the state, when they had battled different aspects of it for so long.

She said: "I feel so humble about it, I really do. Obviously I thought it was an absolutely lovely thing to be linked with, the Honours list, to be associated with, but at the same time it was a dichotomy.

"We are at the inquests at the moment and to me that's the most important thing, so I was in a dilemma - do you accept or do you not accept? Because so many people were involved in all this.

"Then I thought there could not be a nicer way to end the year, to accept it on behalf of all those people involved."

She added: "From the beginning, when you are fighting against everything, nearly 26 years ago, you had this stigma against you all the time, fighting against that, I feel we have turned it all around now and the stigma is going away.

"People are seeing now, the real people, what the genuine people are like, and the people who stood by the families and stayed with them all these years, so it's for them as well."

SEE ALSO:

Mr Hicks said: "(The award is) totally unexpected as we spent 20 plus years taking on 'arms of the state' and governments of all political persuasions.

"Awarding the honour of a CBE shows how much tide of opinion has changed and is further acknowledgement of the wrongs of the past and the 25 years hard work we have all had putting things right."

He added: "I hope that people will understand that I have mixed feelings. Extremely proud both on a personal level and for the HFSG, it's former and present officers and all the families.

"Yet a degree of humility as I was 'only doing what anyone would do' in the circumstances that I found myself thrust in to."

Mrs Aspinall likened her CBE to David Cameron's apology in the House of Commons in September 2012, in which he described Hillsborough as a "double injustice" of the "failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth".

Mrs Aspinall added: "To me it was a turning point for everybody, it is another turning point this award."

Steve Rotheram, MP for Liverpool Walton, told HuffPost UK: "These awards are recognition of the steadfast resolve of families' in their fight for truth and justice.

"Both Margaret Aspinall and Trevor Hicks have shown remarkable resolve and leadership over many years and it is fitting that the very establishment that conspired to deny natural justice has been forced by the sheer weight of public opinion to recognise the outstanding work of campaigners."