We moved a significant step closer to seeing justice for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster today as the date for the new inquests was set for the end of March 2014, at a venue still to be confirmed. The inquests will be before Lord Justice Goldring who also announced at the hearing in
that the inquests will take place in front of a jury. This is extremely
important news for the families. There is such a level of mistrust of the
establishment because of scandalous cover ups that a jury of ordinary citizens is
the only way that any trust can be regained.
Leading Counsel to the Inquests Christina Lambert QC emphasised the need for a comprehensive inquiry to include such matters –
‘..as the design of the stadium, preparation for the semi-final, planning by police and other organisations, movement and distribution of fans, overcrowding at the turnstiles and the police response.’
There is much work to be done between now and March but the signs are more encouraging than they have been for many years.
That is not to say that all is going to run smoothly.
Earlier this week there was the alarming news that G4S were recruiting investigators for the two separate inquiries which are also underway. They were of course the company who were heavily criticised for the way they mis-handled the security for the London Olympics last year. This hardly instils confidence and will hopefully be reconsidered. It would surely be better if there was an investigation team managed by the inquests. This will be considered at a later hearing –
And we have also seen the first signs of a fight back from the police. At today’s
hearing the lawyer representing the police questioned the reliability of the
report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. It was this devastating report
last September which led the Prime Minister to publicly apologise to the nation.
He said that the Panel’s association with groups campaigning for the families
meant that it had an ‘agenda’.
We at least have some idea of the arguments that will be raised. There will be a further hearing later in the year.
This is one issue which has united the City of
Liverpool for 24 years. I
know many people who were and still are affected by the events of that day.
Bill Shankley once said that some people said that in Liverpool
football was a matter of life and death but in fact it was far more important
than that. He was wrong. I am a lifelong Everton fan but this campaign for
justice for the 96 has gone way beyond any football loyalties.
That justice is creeping nearer bit by bit.