The Hillsborough disaster happened on April 15, 1989, as fans of two English soccer clubs descended on Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. What happened next was one of the most horrific disasters in soccer history. The Hillsborough disaster led to the deaths of 96 fans of the Liverpool football club and one of the longest running fights for justice in English legal history. Amid allegations of police corruption, incompetence, and a massive cover-up, the families of those who died at Hillsborough have fought for over 27 years to secure justice for the victims of the disaster.
As the years have passed, the Hillsborough disaster has become a watchword for police cover-ups and biased reporting by the U.K. tabloid press. The Sun is to this day reviled in the city of Liverpool after it ran front page stories blaming the victims of the disaster for their own deaths.Reporting on the Hillsborough disaster under the headline of "The Truth," the Sun claimed that Liverpool fans stole from the pockets of dead fans. They claimed that some fans "urinated on the brave cops " who were trying to save lives and even that fans beat up cops giving the kiss of life.
The BBC reports today that after 27 years and a two-year-long inquest, the 96 fans who died at the Hillsborough disaster have finally received justice. At last, it has been recognized that those who died were "unlawfully killed." At last, the Hillsborough families have been vindicated. The jury found that police failings contributed to the crush, that safety failings at Hillsborough stadium were a contributory factor, and that the behavior of Liverpool fans did not contribute to decisions made by police that led directly to the disaster.According to the Telegraph, Police planning errors "caused or contributed" to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the Hillsborough disaster.
Former cabinet minister Andy Burnham, who was largely responsible for securing a new inquest, called Hillsborough "the greatest miscarriage of justice of our times." Mr Burnham was scathing in his criticism of South Yorkshire Police.
"The Hillsborough Independent Panel gave us the truth. This Inquest has delivered justice. Next must come accountability.The Hillsborough disaster became about so much more than the tragic deaths of 96 soccer fans. It is to the eternal shame of the South Yorkshire police and elements in the U.K.'s gutter press that the Hillsborough families had to suffer the indignity of seeing the deaths of their loved ones turned into an attack on Liverpool fans. It can only be hoped that those responsible for the deaths at Hillsborough and the subsequent cover-up will be brought to justice. To err is to be human, even when it leads to the death of 96 fans. To collude and conspire in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster to cover up police failings is inexcusable. The Sun in particular bears much of the responsibility for vilifying the deaths of those who died during the Hillsborough disaster. Their reporting on Hillsborough was beyond sick.
"For 27 years, this police force has consistently put protecting itself above protecting those hurt by the horror of Hillsborough. People must be held to account for their actions and prosecutions must now follow.
"Disgracefully, lawyers for retired police have attempted to continue the cover-up in this courtroom. They made it an adversarial battle in defiance of the Lord Chief Justice's ruling. This has been brutal on the Hillsborough families and put them through hell once again.
"The current leadership of South Yorkshire Police needs to explain why it went back on its 2012 apology at this Inquest, prolonging the agony for the families."
It can only be hoped that those affected directly or indirectly by the disaster at Hillsborough can finally achieve some peace as a result of the inquest verdict. Perhaps now the 96 souls who lost their lives at Hillsborough can finally rest in peace, and perhaps the survivors can now begin to heal from the horrors they witnessed on that fateful day.
It is unlikely that anyone involved in the Hillsborough disaster will ever be able to forgive those who were responsible for the disaster and the subsequent cover-up, but surely they will at least feel vindicated and be able to feel that at last justice has been secured for the 96.
[Photo by Clint Hughes/AP]