By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2787

Hillsborough TV drama highlights battle for justice

Issue 2787
Maxine Peake as Anne Williams in front of Liverpool FC scarves

Maxine Peake as Anne Williams (Pic: World Productions/ITV)

Anne, a new drama about real-life Hillsborough justice campaigner Anne Williams, shows the raw reality of a decades-long battle for justice.

The drama follows Anne’s relentless fight to win justice for her 15-year-old son Kevin and the other victims of Hillsborough.

Anne’s grief shows how the tragedy ruined lives, and trauma and guilt haunted those who survived. But the drive for truth fuelled a battle to hold the police to account for the disaster and subsequent cover-ups.

A human crush during a football game at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield on 15 April 1989 resulted in the deaths of 97 Liverpool football club fans. Andrew Devine died last June from injuries sustained at Hillsborough, becoming the 97th victim.

Following the disaster, the bereaved were lied to by authorities. They were harassed by the Sun which disgracefully blamed the fans for their own deaths and spread lies about hooliganism.

“I’m fed up hearing my son was a hooligan,” Anne tells a survivor who had helped Kevin.

The series details the horrors of Hillsborough and the exhausting journey to justice by the Hillsborough Family Support Group and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, including lengthy legal proceedings. Again and again, they were told their fight was “not in the interest of justice”.

The 1990 Lord Taylor public inquiry found that South Yorkshire Police allowed thousands to enter the stadium through a single tunnel with no control or plan in place.

Anne discovers the real details surrounding Kevin’s death, contrary to the coroner’s evidence, and that statements from two police officers who said they helped him were changed.

But in March 1991 a jury’s verdict on the coroner’s inquest into Hillsborough ruled they were accidental deaths.

Anne attempts to prove her son could have survived had the right medical care been provided. She finds out that 42 ambulances were prevented from assisting the injured and dying.

A judicial review claim is later brought by six of the families. Yet in 1993 the court again ruled against them.

Anne continues her hunt for further evidence and witnesses. She meets with survivors, doctors, pathologists and is pushed between MPs and government officials.

After Labour was elected in 1997 the families hoped for change. But according to Trevor Hicks from the family support group, “New Labour means new cover-up.”

Lord Justice Stuart-Smith’s investigation dismissed grounds for new inquests and a fresh inquiry. Further private prosecutions were rejected, as was Anne’s case to the European Court of Human Rights in 2009.

But the campaigners kept fighting. Finally they had a breakthrough as a new independent panel was set up to go over all evidence.

It looked through over 2 million documents over two years. This eventually included cabinet notes from Margaret Thatcher’s government.

On truth day in September 2012 the independent panel found that not only was the stadium unsafe, but full blame for the disaster lay with South Yorkshire Police. 

It added that better medical intervention could have saved 41 lives.

And it also said allegations of drunkenness and fans’ violence were invented by the police, a local Tory MP and media. Yet these disgusting lies were still used as a defence in the trials of the officers responsible in 2021.

A new inquest into Hillsborough and for each victim was announced by the High Court at the end of 2012. Anne, despite rapidly declining health, attended this ruling and later the 24th anniversary memorial before dying three days after.

In April 2016 the new inquest found the victims had been unlawfully killed. But to this day, almost 33 years later, no one has been held accountable.

The new series is a reminder of how police forces will connive and lie to avoid accountability—and the state will protect them.

The continuing Hillsborough campaigners’ struggle shows relentless determination to find the truth behind why so many ordinary people were killed. 

The four-part series is on ITV Hub here

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance