The Hillsborough Verdicts May Bring Closure for Families and Survivors - But This Must Not Be the End for Those Who Caused Untold Pain

26/04/2016 11:20

The Hillsborough campaign has always been about the pursuit of facts; before, during and after the disaster on 15 April 1989. It has never been about revenge or retribution, but about responsibility and redress. The foundation upon which the heroic struggle of families and friends of the 96 victims was built, has always been a relentless pursuit for truth and justice.

For many families and survivors, truth came in the form of the 600-page Hillsborough Independent Panel Report in September 2012. For others, the unequivocal vindication they had campaigned for for so long, came too late.

Today, however, they all received the justice they sought, summed up in two words; unlawful killing.

After the longest Coronial process in British legal history, the verdict of unlawful killing that was handed down by a jury of the victims peers, provided the undeniable truth of the full horror of Hillsborough.

The verdicts may be the final step towards closure for many of the families and survivors of that fateful day and that is to be welcomed. However, it must not be the end for those whose denial, deceit and deception caused untold pain over the agony of loss.

As someone who attended the annual memorial services when, year after year, it seemed another legal avenue had been exhausted or another door been slammed shut in the face of campaigners, I began to believe that the full story would never be heard.

Today my emotions are mixed.

There is a huge sense of relief, vindication and an overarching determination to see the job through, but it is tinged with the realisation that unlike other David versus Goliath battles, there can be no victory in these circumstances.

But make no mistake; today's verdicts matter.

When Martin Luther King Jr said that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", he was alluding to a belief that injustice must be fought in all its forms in order to protect the rights of every citizen, whether rich or poor, young or old.

The tragedy at Hillsborough was an affront to every working-class man, women and child in this country. It was an affront to every law-abiding citizen up and down the country. And, the orchestrated establishment cover-up was an affront to British justice.

As the country reflects on the enormity of the verdicts it is worth remembering each of these facts.

Many in Parliament and the media must take stock of why, for over a quarter of a century they failed to listen to one of our country's biggest cities, when its people cried injustice.

Our police must learn the lessons from past mistakes and commit to ensuring that such institutional duplicity can never happen again in a 21st Century service that truly serves the public and not vested interests.

And our press must tighten-up its act in line with Leveson regulations to prevent smear, lie and innuendo being splashed on front pages as fact.

Let us today recognise the enormity of the verdicts and commit as a Parliament, a press, and a people, to never again allow the establishment in this country to ride roughshod over ordinary men, women and children.

Let us today commit to never again allow the denigration of the innocent to be played out in phoney headlines and falsehoods in national newspapers.

Let us today resolve to never again allow the police service; to fabricate evidence to fit their false narrative, pressure and blackmail its own officers to commit fraudulent acts, and cover its own back at the expense of pursing truth and justice.

Let us never again standby and watch the pain in a parents' eyes, as for 27 years they feel totally unable to collect the death certificate of their son or daughter because the original cause of death recorded was an insult to their loved ones' memory.

If we can do that, if others after 27 years can be brave enough to acknowledge their mistakes and if we can see today as more than simply the end of the latest chapter in the story of the Hillsborough disaster, then it will mean that 96 people didn't die in vain, and the campaign - as torturous as it has been for the families - was worth more than the dark place in Britain's history that some consigned it to, but can be a beacon of light in our nation's future in the pursuit of truth and justice.

Steve Rotheram is the Labour MP for Liverpool Walton - covering Anfield and Liverpool FC. He is a Liverpool supporter and was at Hillsborough on that day, swapping his ticket in the Lepping Lane pens for the seated stand above the crush, just minutes before kick off.