Fresh inquests could be held into the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans who died as a result of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
The attorney general Dominic Grieve announced on Tuesday that he will apply to the High Court to have the original verdicts of accidental death quashed.
This follows an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announcement of an investigation into the police handling of the Hillsborough disaster. It will be the organisation’s biggest investigation to date.
The announcements reflect the enormous pressure brought by relatives of the dead, survivors and campaigners. Sheila Coleman is from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. She told Socialist Worker, “It’s right that the inquests should be quashed.
“There are still accidental death verdicts recorded against the dead. No police officers have been charged. We hope that the Director of Public Prosecutions recommends that there are grounds for criminal proceedings.”
Some 96 fans died after being crushed in two pens at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough football ground. Police failed to divert the fans into empty pens and pushed back those trying to escape—then blamed the fans for the deaths.
It’s no surprise that there are concerns over the IPCC investigation. Sheila said, “We’re pleased that the IPCC will investigate, not that we have much faith in it.
“We want to make sure that the investigation won’t involve anyone who has previously been involved in any aspect of an investigation into Hillsborough.”
An independent panel last month found that 41 of the dead could have survived if they had been evacuated faster and received proper medical attention. The report exonerated Liverpool football fans and exposed the police cover-up that followed.
Since then the role of figures like Sir Norman Bettison, the police chief who was involved in an internal police inquiry following the disaster, has been highlighted.
But Hillsborough can’t simply be blamed on one officer or police force. “This wasn’t just localised in one area,” said Sheila. “West Midlands Police handled the internal police inquiry after Hillsborough. And West Yorkshire Police have called in the IPCC to investigate Norman Bettison.
“There was a conspiracy of cover-up over a sustained period of time. It’s the corruption of the British police force that we continue to protest against.”
Already the report’s findings are being distorted. It found that nearly 200 police statements were altered, 164 substantially. Yet in several media reports this fact has become an “allegation” that only 164 were altered.
“The main way people can help us is to keep up the political pressure,” said Sheila. “Protests and things like that do make a difference. “The legal aspects of the campaign are important but they’re secondary. The response to this, in the first instance, will be political.”