Saturday 24 March 2018

Civil servant fired after investigation into Hillsborough Wikipedia slurs

A civil servant in Liverpool has been fired for gross misconduct after a Daily Telegraph investigation identified the government employee who wrote 'you'll never walk again' on Wikipedia

A civil servanty has lost his job following Hillsborough slurs posted online from a government computer.
A civil servanty has lost his job following Hillsborough slurs posted online from a government computer.

Oliver Duggan

A civil servant in Liverpool has been fired for using government computers to post abuse about the Hillsborough disaster on the Wikipedia website following an investigation by The Daily Telegraph in England.

The Whitehall official used the government intranet to mock the 1989 tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans died at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground. An inquest into the deaths is being held.

The man, an administrative officer, edited the phrase “You’ll never walk alone”, the anthem of Liverpool FC, to read: “You’ll never walk again.”

The 24 year-old later added the phrase “This is a s---hole” to the Wikipedia page for Anfield and “nothing for the victims of the Heysel disaster” to a section of the site dedicated to the Liverpool ground’s Hillsborough memorial.

An “urgent inquiry” began after the changes were disclosed in April, when the Cabinet Office said it would be almost impossible to trace the offending civil servant.

However, Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, is expected to tell Parliament today that evidence unearthed by The Telegraph succesfully identified the author of the comments.

In a ministerial statement, he will inform MPs that a “junior civil servant” has been dismissed for gross misconduct after he used a Whitehall-linked computer to post the abuse.

The offender, who is from London but lives in Liverpool with his fiancée, was found after changes to the online encyclopedia were linked to his social media activity and employment history.

The suspected author was first located when his abusive edits from a government secure intranet (GSI) computer ended with a joke about the Liverpool stadium’s capacity.

He claimed that attendance at the ground was worse than Chelsea and Everton football clubs — “and even Borehamwood”, a town in Hertfordshire.

Wikipediocracy, an online community concerned with abuse of the internet, alerted The Telegraph to subsequent edits that appeared to have been made from the same government computer to Borehamwood’s dedicated Wikipedia page.

Among a cluster of changes made soon after the Hillsborough slurs, the civil servant is believed to have penned an addition to the town’s “Notable Companies” section.

He wrote critical comments about Adecco, a recruitment firm with which he had some grievances, and left biographical details about his time in the area.

Wikipediocracy and The Daily Telegraph later traced a man with access to the GSI who had made comments about Hillsborough and Heysel on social mediia and was also linked to Adecco, Borehamwood, Chelsea and Everton.

The government employee grew up in Hertfordshire and his parents still live in the county. He is an avid Chelsea fan and is engaged to an Everton supporter.

It is believed that he denied any wrongdoing when interviewed by Home Office investigators. He was put on “special leave” while his work station was analysed for any evidence.

Online activity also suggests he has made sexist edits to a Wikipedia page on Natalie Sawyer, the Sky presenter about whom he has tweeted affectionately.

A source close to the Cabinet Office’s investigation said: “There has been a rigorous investigation and an individual has been dismissed for gross misconduct.The person has been dismissed on the grounds that they were responsible for the 2012 edits.

"They are a very junior and young administrative officer. This dismissal is for the 2012 edits only but in the absence of other leads relating to other edits the investigation has concluded.”

Andy Burnham, the MP who has overseen the inquiry, said: “These edits were hurtful to the families, but all the more troubling coming from a government computer.”

Margaret Aspinall, chair of Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: "We had a meeting on Friday evening and all the families agreed that his name should be withheld.

"He has been sacked, and we all took the decision not to name him because social media can be very unpleasant.

"The most important thing is that this has been dealt with and it has not been covered up. He has been punished."

Online Editors

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