The Shame of Hillsborough


I have never lost a loved one in a tragedy such as occurred to 96 Liverpool fans in the Hillsborough football ground in 1989, during what should have been a happy event.

So I cannot even begin to contemplate the personal loss suffered by relatives, never mind the fact that it was part of a multiple tragedy. Add to this the failure of the ambulance and police services to handle the immediate situation satisfactorily with a lack of professional competence, and the anger was justifiably going to grow. Unjustified accusations of fan mis-behaviour did nothing to help the campaign in its quest for truth to be discovered.

But what must surely be considered a major factor to be carried into the future, was the continuing failure of professionals in the legal, political, and policing fields to allow the truth to come out. The eventual release of all the legal papers, just a few years ago, showed not just the failure of proper leadership, but even more worrying, some of the statements by police officers had been changed by superiors, to protect those who had made the wrong decisions. Despite the damning evidence, it has taken some years for the legal procedures to be completed. The decision reached today by the jury placed responsibility where it should be, and completely vindicated the efforts made by the relatives. It is good that they feel some closure, and that duty has been done to the memory of those who died.

Our relief that justice had been eventually achieved (after 27 long years) was muted with the realisation that those responsible as up-holders of the legal area of our society have been shown to be capable of wrong decisions, and are not always whiter-than-white when it comes to admitting to their professional mistakes.

Professionals such as these take on an awesome responsibility when they assume the mantle of decision-making and leading men…….and when things go well they deserve the plaudits. But they must also know what will happen when their decisions are wrong, with subsequent dreadful results.

We are now seeing where the next turns of the wheels of justice are taking us, and we know that there will be problems of what, if anything can and will be done about those individuals and institutions now held reponsible. There is no doubt that any retribution or apologies will not bring back loved ones, or make up for the years during which the truth was distorted.

Were I one of those campaigning, I think I would be at a loss how to feel. Can I therefore hope that there may yet be an element of forgiveness from the relatives for those professionals who, in retrospect, made the wrong decisions, and have to live with that knowledge all of their lives.