An emotional day here in Liverpool. ‘Truth and Justice’ reads the banner that extends the full length of St Georges Hall. It took 27 years. David Conn, who has written extensively on the subject for the Guardian, writes today of the Hillsborough disaster: deadly mistakes and lies that lasted decades, and how at the inquest a picture emerged of a callously negligent police force led by an inexperienced commander whose actions directly led to the deaths of 96 people.
The inquest’s verdict, when it finally arrived, represented the most thorough vindication imaginable for the families of the dead and an equally damning indictment of South Yorkshire Police. The jury supplanted the 1991 verdict with one of unlawful killing, laying blame squarely on the police in the process. Critically, it agreed that Liverpool fans had in no way contributed to the disaster. The families gathered outside the Warrington courtroom and sang You’ll Never Walk Alone before a throng of media.
Finally, after 27 years of horror, heartbreak and struggle, the families have seen a jury deliver the verdict they, their loved ones, and those who suffered and survived but found themselves targets of South Yorkshire police’s ferocious campaign required. The families were people mostly trusting of the police, who after their horrific loss found themselves in a nightmare, fighting the police’s false case and repeated letdowns by the legal system. Derided and denigrated as “animalistic”, they were ultimately driven on by the power of human love and loyalty, and the bonds of family.
The lessons for British policing from this needless devastation of so many lives stretch far beyond the failings of one out-of-his-depth officer who took 26 years to fully confess. The police have a difficult, vital job, to keep society safe. However here, where they failed, their use of the word “animals” documented an inability to see a group of citizens even as people.
27 Years is a blog post by Paul Scraton whose father, criminologist Phil Scraton, was a member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and headed its research. Paul writes about his own memory of 15th April 1989 when he was nine, and the experience of growing up with a father dedicated to exposing the truth of what happened 27 years ago.
- Michael Nyman’s Hillsborough Memorial
- Dickens, injustice and Hillsborough
- Hillsborough: collusion and cover-up
- Hillsborough: the truth. Now for justice
- Still the Enemy Within: pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will
- United We Stand: agitprop reminder of conspiracy and miscarriage of justice