More than five years after a jury ruled that 96 people were killed unlawfully in the Hillsborough disaster – and that their behaviour did not contribute to the situation – police forces have agreed to pay compensation to more than 600 people for mental distress caused by the attempted cover-up.
I have two questions.
Firstly: why did it take so long for South Yorkshire and West Midlands police to agree to pay up?
Secondly: Why aren’t the Conservative Party and Rupert Murdoch’s News International paying compensation, too?
Let’s go into the circumstances:
We all know that the Hillsborough Disaster was a fatal human crush at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, hosted at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium on April 15, 1989.
It happened due to gross negligence by match commander David Duckenfield of South Yorkshire Police.
The police service then attempted to hide the fact that its failures caused 96 deaths and 766 injuries – the worst disaster in UK sporting history – by trying to blame it on the fans who were injured and died, saying those people caused the tragedy by being drunk and misbehaving.
West Midlands was the force appointed to investigate the disaster, but has since been accused of malpractices and failures that have been subject to a long-running investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Not only that, though: the prime minister of the day, the Conservative Margaret Thatcher, refused to release information that made the police look bad.
And The Sun, a newspaper published by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, published a story headlined The Truth that was nothing but a pack of lies, supporting the fantasy created by the police.
This Writer believes a strong argument could be made that the newspaper story – which led to The Sun being boycotted in Liverpool ever since – caused more distress, more anguish, to survivors, and to relatives and friends of the deceased, than the police cover-up on which it was based (although I know it could not have been written if the police and the Tory prime minister had not lied in the first place).
Civil claims for compensation due to malfeasance in public office by the two police forces were submitted in 2015, during inquests into the reasons the 96 died.
The claimants said the lies had caused them to suffer trauma and psychiatric damage, and the compensation is to cover not only those injuries but also the cost of treatment and counselling.
Those claims were made nearly six years ago and the payments haven’t been made yet (at the time of writing). So I repeat: why not?
And how much are these people getting, to make one of the claimants describe the payout as “insulting” in The Guardian‘s news article about it?
The behaviour of the police was shocking, and undermines public faith in the reliability of our law enforcement officers across the UK – not just in the forces concerned.
But – as mentioned above – they weren’t the only organisations caught lying; they weren’t the only people who deliberately caused further distress over Hillsborough.
Margaret Thatcher withheld information – which was as bad as lying because it presented a false impression that the police were blameless.
She was able to do so because she was prime minister at the time – and she was prime minister because she was leader of the Conservative Party that had formed the then-current government.
She died in 2013 but it seems perfectly reasonable to hold the Tories responsible for putting her in a position where she could distort the facts. Why has the Conservative Party avoided compensating these people?
And that Sun headline has gone down in the history of journalistic infamy. The disgust of the city of Liverpool – in perpetuity – is not enough. Why has News International not offered compensation as well?
All three of these organisations should have offered payouts voluntarily, considering the enormity of the harm they have done, but they didn’t.
The police are only paying up because they were forced to.
Perhaps that aspect of this tragedy is the most damning of all.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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