Wednesday 27 April 2016

Hillsborough. Justice? Or truth?

The papers today are saying, almost uniformly, that we at last have justice for the 96. Some of the families are saying so as well. I disagree. We do not yet have justice. What the decision gave us yesterday was the truth. Truth is a very important part of justice, but only a part of it. This is an important issue in terms of the national debate, because this is not only about 96 people who lost their lives, and not only about the survivors and family who have had to live with the consequences. We have reached the truth because of the determination of the families, the decency of some (but certainly not all) politicians, and the professionalism and integrity of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, and the coroner and jury who gave their verdicts yesterday.

But this is not yet justice. Justice requires that people face up to their wrong doing and, if necessary, pay a price. There has been much persistent wrong doing over Hillsborough. It is not just about wrong doing by people who were there on the day. It is also about policy and culture that led to a climate in which that kind of thing could happen. And it is also about persistent, deliberate and long term perversion of the course of justice because so many people lied for so long about what actually happened. Even during this inquest, over the course of the last two years, South Yorkshire police barristers were still peddling the lie that the fans were ticketless and out of control drunk. I don't blame the barristers - they were doing their job. I do blame South Yorkshire police - the current commanders of South Yorkshire police - for continuing to peddle such a lie.

The Mirror asks today if justice will be served by people being prosecuted after so long a time. It is a legitimate question. But the answer in this case is a resounding yes. Many people who got it wrong on the day have continued in their lives and careers apparently undisturbed by what they did, and undisturbed by the relentless cover up of their failings and crimes. Yes, they should pay a price.

And the wrong doing has continued to this day. The South Yorkshire police who hid the truth, the West Midlands police who aided and abetted their cover up were guilty even yesterday of maintaining the lie. And it is not a little white lie. It is perverting the course of justice. They should be brought to book.

For some people, the law will not bring justice. The Sun newspaper continues on its merry way. Its "heartfelt" apology was published on pages 8 and 9. Why not on the front page? The Metro has done a brilliant job of trolling the Sun, by the way, reproducing the Sun's infamous front page, and then reporting the results of the inquest with exactly the same format. You need to scroll down a little way to get it.

And there is the person known as Bernard Ingham, the poison pen letter writer. He is a really nasty man. He still refuses to apologise for his disgusting reaction. He will carry on untouched.

The survivors, the families and friends will make their own decision as to whether to continue to campaign for justice. They have earned the right to that decision.

Whatever they decide, the guilty should be pursued. And I hope that the state, which has so long used its apparatus against the 96, will now work on their behalf. But the law does not cover everything. The law cannot not always bring justice, because justice is more than the law. The law does not have the capacity to secure justice between the 96 and their families on the one hand, and the Sun and Bernard Ingham on the other. Justice is about the right kind of relationship existing between people, and it is up to all of us as human beings and as citizens to secure the balance. That means contesting privilege, calling out the powerful when they abuse their power, as the Sun and Ingham have done. And because they are so persistent in abusing their power, the confrontation must also be persistent. In that regard we all have a lot to learn from the families and friends of the 96.

27th April edited to add.
Perhaps they are beginning to do it: David Crompton, South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable, Suspended After Hillsborough Inquest Verdict. While he has only been in command of S Yorks police since 2012, he has been directly involved in the maintenance of the cover up, as shown in the article.