Justice finally for reputations besmirched
The report went on: “While these allegations were found to be unsubstantiated by the Taylor Inquiry and the reporting was criticised subsequently by the press council, the allegations persisted throughout the inquiries and investigations.”
The campaign was aided by a then-serving Conservative Sheffield MP, Irvine Patnick, who, then and later, did everything possible to protect the reputation of South Yorkshire police, including objecting to the removal of the chief constable.
The question now, as ever, is what happens next. Yesterday’s inquiry does not carry legal weight. The original inquest verdict of accidental death stands, unless it is overturned by the High Court on the application of the attorney general.
However, a second inquest could only try to rightly describe how the victims died, with coroners unable to express opinions on other matters. A new public inquiry could be set up, using yesterday’s report as its starting point.
A new police investigation would have to be held, since criminal proceedings would have to take place before a new inquest so as not to prejudice rights to a fair trial. Michael Mansfield, QC for the families, seeks manslaughter charges.
Manslaughter could be difficult, but the evidence that documents, including court witness statements, were doctored will mean that many on duty in or around Hillsborough face anxious months, if not years ahead.
In the Commons, Labour Liverpool Walton MP, Steve Rotheram, who swapped a Leppings Lane ticket for one in Hillsborough’s stand just 15 minutes before kick-off, spoke for many on Merseyside.
“Despite the criticism levelled at us of a ‘self-pity city’, we were right that there was a deliberate attempt to shift the blame and instigate a cover-up at the very highest level. It is not about retribution – it is about responsibility.” Last year, Rotheram opened a Commons debate by naming the 96 dead, one by one. “If I can go from being a brickie in Kirkby to the lord mayor, who knows what these 96 people may have achieved in their lives.” That question will be forever unanswered.
Hillsborough football disaster dead: 96; injured: 766
The Hillsborough football disaster happened in Sheffield on April 15th 1989 during an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest
The final death toll was 96 people. Ninety four people died that day, two died later. A further 766 more were injured. All the victims were Liverpool fans. The incident remains one of the worst to have occurred in a football stadium.
The final death, in March 1993, was of 22-year-old Tony Bland. He was in a persistent vegetative state and the hospital caring for him sought, with the support of his parents, court approval for withdrawing artificial feeding and hydration.
Four days after the disaster, the Sun newspaper claimed in front page headlines that: “Some fans picked pockets of victims”, “Some fans urinated on the brave cops” and “Some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life”. The paper is still boycotted by many Liverpudlians.
The official inquiry into the disaster, the Taylor Report (1990), blamed a “failure of police control”, findings that caused the removal of standing terraces at all big football stadiums in England, Wales and Scotland.