In the decades since the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, victims and activists have been fighting for justice. The outcome of the latest court case to arise out of that fateful day, however, has dealt another blow to those seeking justice.
In April 1989, 95 Liverpool fans died as a result of being crushed at a football match in Sheffield, with one supporter dying later, making 96 deaths in total.
Since then, their families – and indeed all the people of Liverpool – have been battling for 32 long years to bring those responsible to justice, and to also expose the shocking police cover-up that followed.
This has been a long fight, with many delays and set-backs, as the establishment has moved time and again to protect themselves. Indeed, to date, only one person has actually been sentenced for crimes arising from the disaster.
On 26 May, three more people involved with the cover-up were acquitted in court on procedural grounds of any wrongdoing. This comes just a year after the unsuccessful prosecution of David Duckenfield, the senior police officer present on the day, for his responsibility in the manslaughter of 95 fans that day.
Shockingly, what was kept from everybody until after last week’s verdict was the admission that the South Yorkshire and West Midlands police forces had already agreed to pay damages to over 600 people as a result of the cover-up, after a civil claim for misfeasance in a public office was started in 2015.
This settlement was agreed in April, but kept secret until now. This is a de facto acceptance of the reality of the cover-up and the “almost complete failure of the justice system to deliver justice”, as the claimants’ lawyers from Saunders Law put it.
The three on the stand most recently were the former lawyer for South Yorkshire Police (SYP), alongside two senior police officers. They were accused of being involved in falsifying, or ‘amending’, the statements of 68 police officers after the disaster, when they were handed over the public inquiry in 1989.
The presiding judge, however, stated that these amendments were ‘administrative’ changes. He argued that this was acceptable because this inquiry did not take place within a court of law, and therefore did not constitute a perversion of justice. He determined that they had ‘no case to answer for’ – thereby making it perfectly legal for the police to provide false testimony.
After the verdict, the officers’ defence attorney, Jonathan Goldberg, brazenly stated that it was ‘drunken’ Liverpool fans who caused the disaster – repeating the shameful line of The Sun newspaper back in 1989.
This is despite every inquiry since proving this accusation to be untrue. The most recent Hillsborough Independent Inquiry, for example, stated that South Yorkshire Police were indeed guilty of ‘negligent manslaughter’. Even the original Taylor inquiry into the events of 1989, although it sided with the police, did not believe that supposed ‘drunkenness’ was the primary factor.
Yet the reactionary establishment has kept up a campaign of innuendo and worse, trying to put the blame on ‘hooligan’ fans. This goes back to Duckenfield’s original statement, made just after Hillsborough, that ‘drunken fans’ had opened the exit gate that caused the crush.
Yet it was later revealed that it was in fact, unsurprisingly, the police who had opened the exit gate to let more people in, forcing more and more people into these pens, and now with no way out. Those who jumped the fence to help and to pull out those in danger were met by police reinforcements, even dog-handlers, to push them back into their deaths.
The 2016 inquiry even showed that 30 of the fans who died that day were actually in the crowd who came through the exit gate, thereby showing that it was clearly not the fans at fault. Rather, the blame lies with the police for treating the fans like cattle.
The former Sheffield Hallam MP Sir Irvine Patnick (a member of the Thatcher government) was the main source for The Sun’s shameless ‘THE TRUTH’ front cover. This asserted disgusting, baseless claims of fans pickpocketing the dead, and urinating on and attacking ‘brave’ cops. But it was precisely these fans who were helping to rescue people whilst the police obstructed them at every turn.
There can be no doubt that the Hillsborough cover-up also extends up to the higher echelons of the state, thereby implicating people still working in the police, judiciary, and government.
With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last year, this verdict comes at a time when more and more people are realising the actual role of the police.
The police are not there to ‘serve and protect the community’, but to protect the interests of the state.
The state will always protect its own when its interests are threatened. And they will use whatever means are necessary to do so. This system will continue to lie, deceive, fabricate, or destroy evidence, all in order to protect the ruling class from harm.
The jailing of those responsible for Hillsborough would be celebrated. But the best form of justice for the 96 would be to overthrow the whole rotten system that these criminals-in-uniform fought to preserve.