15 April 1989. What were you doing on 15 April 1989? Can you remember because I can’t. So can we really expect crystal clear recollections about that fateful day when 96 people died? Especially when you’re required to recount them at an inquest?
The original inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death. Subsequent investigations revealed that the police had been somewhat economical with the truth and the words ‘cover up’ were mentioned. Certainly it seems that they were covering their backsides and there’s no excuse for that. But does it makes the deaths any less misfortune? Nobody set out that day to deliberately kill 96 people.
The officer in charge is clearly traumatised by the events of that day. PTSD has struck him down and he’s very frank about how remorseful he feels that he couldn’t have done better. But we can all be wise after the event. Does that mean he should be prosecuted for his actions? Or should he be pitied for the witch hunt to find somebody to blame?
The culture of the 21st century is very different to that of 1989. We live in a world of ambulance chasing lawyers and the inherited culture of America where nothing is ever an accident and somebody has to be blamed. If we walk down the street and trip over a paving stone then it’s not our fault for not looking where we’re going. It’s the fault of the council for not maintaining the pavement or the poor sod who laid the stone. It’s always somebody else’s fault.
And that’s what I find so unpalatable about the Hillsborough verdict. Even the jury couldn’t agree more a more than 7-2 majority verdict of unlawful killing. Reading the report, there were many factors involved and many lessons to be learnt from that day. And it’s not so much that we have to wheedle out somebody to blame, but the fact that the supporters themselves are exonerated of any part they played.
After all, they were there too. But remember – in 2016, it’s always somebody else’s fault…