Back in September 2012 the revelations of the Hillsborough Independent Panel shook a country to its core as the truth was finally aired. On the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough the Cutter republishes how we responded to the panel’s findings…
When writer Charles Bukowski was asked to define the point of life he replied, “We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church and the state”.
Yesterday, as the revelations of the Hillsborough Independent Panel shook a country to its core there were some who unlearnt twenty-three years of state lies and smear.
For the majority however the egregious rap-sheet against the supposedly good and powerful arrived as a long overdue confirmation of all that we’d known. Yet when it did each disturbing detail far exceeded our comprehension despite us having over two decades to prepare for them. It is after all a catalogue of despicable actions so unimaginable it shatters any decent person’s moral compass.
– Blood taken from each of the dead hopeful of traces of alcohol in which to blame them for being crushed to death at a football match. When alcohol wasn’t found databases were illegally used to run criminal checks to “impugn the reputations of the deceased”.
– 164 police statements altered with 116 of them identified for ‘substantive amendment’ to ‘remove or alter comments unfavourable’ to South Yorkshire Police.
– The harrowing news that 41 of the 96 could have been saved if they had received treatment after the crude 3.15pm cut-off point.
– Hillsborough did not meet minimum safety standards.
– Connivance between senior police, MPs and press to falsely vilify the supporters.
The immediate aftermath of that awful April afternoon and the years that have followed have been a monumental, cold-blooded cover-up to shift the blame for the authorities’ ineptitude onto the very people who had suffered from it.
We’ve known most of this for so long now, in our hearts, our minds and embedded in our guts, but truly – and I write this with no exaggeration – it was pure evil at work. And evil never fails to jolt the normal to the bone.
At what point did you shed a tear yesterday? For me it was hearing the collective gasps in the Commons as the Prime Minister aired the findings from over 400,000 pages of previously unreleased documentation. I’ve never heard such a reaction in Parliament, a place lest we forget that deals daily with the very worst this nation has to endure, from war to economic crisis. Those gasps brought it home to me that there was no return now. It was over, the truth was out and the relatives of the 96 could now begin to find some peace. Dignified, stoic people such as Trevor and Jenni Hicks who were deprived of the basic human right to grieve and instead had to fight through innumerable legal roadblocks of what we laughably refer to as our justice system simply to unveil a basic truth. They can grieve now and Jesus I wept at that.
Indeed by comparing and contrasting the protagonists on each side of this prolonged and heartbreaking drama it is staggering to think there ever any doubt in any quarters on where culpability lay.
Trevor Hicks, Margaret Aspinall, Anne Williams and all of the families have displayed such unstinting dignity, decency and humanity as to both humble and inspire. The same goes for the people of the city of Liverpool who were first besieged, then besmirched and finally – disgracefully – ridiculed by some yet never, ever gave up and did so with integrity, campaign and song.
These were ordinary people with extraordinary virtue whose voices all-too-often amounted to whispers into an abyss. Because across the divide the individuals with the ways and means to shape the narrative of the tragedy had the microphones. They had the newspapers. They had the stripes on their uniforms and the full fearsome force of the system in which to propagate their untruths and tarnish the innocent. They were the system and we only need look at the paucity of their character to see, in horrendous hindsight, how this ‘double injustice’ as David Cameron termed it, was allowed to occur.
Chief Superintendant David Duckenfield was in charge of policing on April 15th 1989. His incompetence and startling hubris directly resulted in the deaths of 96 innocent football supporters. Here was a man completely out of his depth – the Taylor Report says that he ‘froze’ – and it was his decision to open the exit gate, a decision he later lied about, claiming that the fans forced their way in. The Taylor Report described this as ‘a disgraceful lie’. Duckenfield later avoided prosecution on grounds of ill-health, a typically evasive action from a man so lacking in moral fibre he has blood on his hands yet has spent 23 years refusing to look down at them.
The MP for Sheffield and Hallam Irvine Patnick who willingly passed on the erroneous and incredibly damaging information to the press from the police. During his time in office Patnick has voted for the reintroduction of the death penalty, opposed sanctions against apartheid South Africa and strongly supported Section 28. There are now calls to strip him of his knighthood that cheapens the very honour bestowed on others who are actually deserving of it.
Margeret Hilda Thatcher and her Conservative government of the day. I am loathe to bring politics into this so I will simply state once again. Margaret Hilda Thatcher and her Conservative government of the day.
The editor of Britain’s biggest selling newspaper of the time Kelvin MacKenzie, an odious, morally bankrupt individual from life’s gutter who knowingly spread malicious and false propaganda that slurred the reputations of the grieving. Is there anything more abhorrent in life? Yes there is. To then remain unrepentant and bellicose regarding this incredibly inhumane sin for twenty-three years.
Here are a roll call of rogues and despicable human beings who made up the establishment in the latter part of the 20th century. An establishment that erred with tragic consequences. An establishment that in the pre-internet, pre-Youtube, pre-media savvy era knew they could lie with impunity.
They could have no way of knowing how we’d evolve as a society. How in years to come national outrage would be sufficient in strength to topple a Sunday tabloid institution. How the public’s distrust of those in power, that has always been prevalent through the ages, would – through the decline of reverence to our royal family to the MP expense scandal – bring accountability like never before.
But mostly the government, South Yorkshire police force, and media of 1989 could not possibly have envisioned the relentless fortitude and diligence shown from the city of Liverpool to expose their sickening scheme. And as much as I loathe each person named above I have to say this…who can blame them for that? It is after all a level of honour that far exceeds their own personal capability or understanding.
It took nearly a quarter of a century to unveil the truth. Now it’s time to swing the sword of justice. For who we are now. For what we know for sure now. And of course for the 96 who needlessly perished due to who governed us back then.