Hillsborough crimes go unpunished


Hillsborough   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Dave Walsh, Liverpool Socialist Party

During more than thirty years of campaigning, the families of the 96 killed at Hillsborough and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign uncovered the truth: that 96 football fans were unlawfully killed. There was a cover-up, with hundreds of statements altered before they were presented to the public inquiry. But they have exposed more, that in the British legal system the truth is not enough.

At the inquest in Warrington in 2016, Hillsborough Police Chief Duckenfield admitted for the first time that his failure to close the tunnel to the packed terraces was the direct cause of the deaths. And he admitted lying to the original inquiry when he said that fans had smashed their way in. But that was a public inquiry, not a criminal court, so no sentence could be passed. In the criminal trial that followed in 2019, thirty years after the crime was committed, the first trial resulted in a hung jury, the second jury acquitted Duckenfield; justice delayed is justice denied.

That there was a cover-up is a matter of fact, but at the trial of two accused officers and a solicitor that concluded on 26 May, the judge ruled on a technicality that the three could not be found guilty of a criminal act because the statements they tampered with were being prepared for a public inquiry and not a law court; therefore this could not be regarded as perverting the course of justice. The court case exposes the fact that police are free to mislead a public inquiry.

The collapse of the trial leaves questions about the role of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Mike Benbow, the former director of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, said that the CPS was given evidence of misconduct in public office and could have pursued these charges. But, inexplicably, it chose only to pursue the charge of perverting the course of justice.

What confidence can those seeking the truth about the Grenfell disaster have, now they’ve seen the reality of British justice? Or those seeking the truth about the government’s handling of the pandemic? It will only be possible to have justice for working-class people when we have democratic control of the system, and the ruling capitalist class has been swept from power. Only then can we be safe from such crimes, with a socialist system designed to meet the needs of all the people, and not the obscene profits of a privileged few.