OPINION: Who will take blame for Hillsborough tragedy after trial collapses?

Fans are pulled from the Leppings Lane terrace to a seated area above during the 1989 FA Cup semi-fi

Fans are pulled from the Leppings Lane terrace to a seated area above during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough - Credit: PA

Liverpool supporter Paul Williams from Norfolk who was at the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 gives his view on this week's collapse of the trial

So the Hillsborough trial collapses in farce.

Am I disappointed? Yes, naturally.

Am I surprised? Not in the slightest.

I think it's a miracle the accused were even in court, after the lies and smears of the last 32 years. Only a long and determined campaign by the families, survivors and many others to uncover the truth got us to this point. And then the case collapses. On a technicality. Quelle surprise.

I've imagined the headlines over and over in my head "Hillsborough: No Cover Up" after these 'show trials' had finished. As a group, we were pretty confident that this would be the outcome. So much so that I'd written much of this article in my head, during the first Covid lockdown.

You see, there was a cover up. A big, fat cover up. Right from the top, with No 10 Downing Street and Margaret Thatcher's government.

Most Read

Once the lie about fans breaking in and causing the disaster had passed the lips of the match commander, David Duckenfield, the wheels were set in motion, to blame the fans. Leaking this false narrative to The Sun newspaper was a masterstroke in propaganda.

The nation was now sucked in to this lie. A lie which perpetuated for 27 years, until a second inquest was held into the tragedy, after the original inquest verdicts had been quashed.

After more than two years of almost forensic evidence, on the April 26, 2016, the jury found that the 96 people who died in the disaster had been 'unlawfully killed' and the supporters who were at the ground were in NO way to blame. If the inquest verdicts were translated into a football score, it would have read Liverpool 14-0 South Yorkshire Police. It was wholly damning.

Criminal cases were pursued by a specialist group of police officers, codenamed Operation Resolve, against those who were deemed responsible for the deaths, as well as other crimes linked to the disaster.

During the inquests, chief superintendent David Duckenfield, the police commander on the day of Hillsborough, admitted, in court, that it was his actions that directly resulted in the deaths of the 96 fans.

Yet when it came to his criminal trial, he pleaded  'not guilty'. The admission he'd made at the inquest a couple of years previously, was not admissible in his criminal trial. How can that be? 

The criminal trial which has just collapsed involved two former police officers and the solicitor who acted for the South Yorkshire police force in the wake of Hillsborough. They were accused of perverting the course of justice, including the overseeing of amending well over 100 of their own officer's sworn statements of their account of the day. Yet these are suddenly not admissible because of a legal technicality. How can that be?

The South Yorkshire police force, who were in charge of the Hillsborough policing, were described in the House Of Commons, by Andy Burnham MP, the day after the inquest verdicts were announced, as "rotten to the core".

This was the same police force who prevailed over the 1984 Miner's Strike and more recently, the Rotherham Child Abuse scandal. It is only this force I have issue with. The police, on the whole, do a fantastic job in keeping us safe every day.

Paul Williams, from Dereham, who survived the Hillsborough Disaster. PHOTO; Matthew Usher

Paul Williams, from Dereham, who survived the Hillsborough Disaster - Credit: Matthew Usher

My own dad served in the police for 30 years, with distinction and pride in both Liverpool and Norfolk Constabulary.

But ever since the day of the disaster, April 15, 1989, there have been numerous cases of former police officers, taking pot shots at the victims, survivors et al, without knowing what actually happened at Hillsborough, while myself and my friends have been effectively gagged until now; unable to tell our stories, for fear of prejudicing any future criminal trials. It was as if we were only football fans. Who's going to believe football fans, over the police?

One serving South Yorkshire Police officer even sued his own force, over what he'd experienced at Hillsborough and the complete incompetence which caused it. He received more than £300,000 apparently.

Imagine his payout if he'd actually been in the crush! The people who were really injured, psychologically, got nothing. Except abuse.

I'm sure many of those officers who were so quick to add their tuppence worth had experienced the frustration of having a villain 'bang to rights', only for the trial to collapse and the accused walk free.

Imagine that feeling if, after 32 years of work, building up to that trial, the accused wriggled free. That's how I, and my comrades feel.

If those officers, who generally spent 30 years of their life in public service, genuinely believe the lies and smears directed at us, from a police force so widely condemned as proven liars at the inquests, then maybe now is the time for them to question their own integrity?

Ninety-six, unlawful killings, and nobody held to account. How can that be?