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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Hillsborough - shocking and damning

There is a scene in 'Life on Mars', in which the character played by John Simm wakes to find himself back in 1973, that involves the attendance of an emergency ambulance at the scene of a shooting. The ambulance is just a sort of clean fruiterer's van with a blue light, and the ambulancemen are dressed in tunics and peaked caps, looking rather like RAF national servicemen. The gunshot victim is placed on a stretcher, covered in a red blanket and bundled into the back of the van to be rushed to hospital. No attempt is made to administer any treatment. 

In reading the evidence relating to the failures of the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service at Hillsborough I tried to recall how ambulances operated in 1989; were they crewed by paramedics, as now, skilled in resuscitation and re-starting stopped hearts? Did they rig intravenous drips, administer opiates? Were they equipped with oxygen and skilled in tracheal intubation? I can't recall, but I suspect the reality lies somewhere between 1973 and the highly skilled and well equipped response of today. That some of the 41 who may have lived were actually killed by being positioned on their backs, allowing them to choke, is shocking enough. That ambulance service bosses distorted, omitted, misrepresented and suppressed compelling evidence against the service by their own staff is damning. The Coroner's foolish finding also protected the service. And if the evidence against the ambulance service reveals the stench of an unprecedented official whitewash, that against the police is greater by a force of magnitude. 

I don't need the help of a TV series to remember the condition of South Yorkshire Police in 1989. I'd been working close to Doncaster during the miners' strike, and know well the bitter and lasting fissures in trust and attitude that were the legacy of that time. In 1989 the wounds were still raw. The police were still in thug-mode, regarding crowds as things to be bludgeoned and clubbed into obedience, defenders of Thatcher's revolution. The Poll Tax riots were just on the horizon. The State was under threat. That the most senior local police officers lied, lied and lied again to cover up their failings is hardly astonishing, and neither is the extent to which the establishment and the State connived in the whitewash;
  • Local Tory MP Irvine Patrick, who spread poisonous lies 
  • Thatcher, who played down the Taylor Report
  • Blair, who blocked a new investigation in 1997
  • Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, who ruled that there were no grounds for a new inquest 
Add to these public names the faceless bureaucrats at the Home Office, the mandarins who were also closely involved in supporting and maintaining the cover up, the lies and the whitewash. Note also the careful way in which public anger is being channelled against the local culprits - leaving Whitehall and Westminster with clean hands. This is the whitewashing of the whitewash. 

And this, I think, is why saccharine Dave at his most Blairite, a man most remote from the families of the victims, was picked to pour his oil on the findings, rather than the locally trusted and respected Bishop of Liverpool, who headed the enquiry. The establishment will now control the fallout, and a few retired Yorkshire coppers will go to jail. Job done. 

NB For a challengingly different perspective, I recommend Anna Raccoon's piece on this - it's truly excellent 


G. Tingey said...


So, now we all know what a lot of people suspected.
The police in Sheffield, after the disaster in April 1989, quite deliberately lied, to cover their own faults, and attempt to shift blame on to the victims themselves. What is worse, for a time, they were at least partially successful in this aim.

Unfortunately, this is not the only time this has happened, and the question must now be asked: “If there are deaths, and the police are seriously involved from the start, can any of their statement be taken as having any relationship to the actual events, or the truth?”
Here are a few other examples, not in any particular order, in either time, or importance, except to the victims & their families.

The death of Ian Tomlinson.
Probably a case of manslaughter by a police officer, which would have remained completely un-noticed, were it not for the prevalence of modern mobile phones with video facilities.

The murder of Jaun de Menezes
We think we know that the police officers who actually killed de Menezes were acting under what they believed were legitimate orders, but there are other considerations, even apart from the complete organisational chaos & lack of communication on that day.
These arise from the statements made by MetPlod to the press & public, such as:
“He was wearing a bulky jacket/coat .. / .. He was running .. / .. He jumped the barriers at Stockwell .. / .. He ran down the escalator .. / .. He was behaving in a (very) suspicious manner …”
NOT ONE of those statements was remotely true, but they had to be picke apart, bit by bit from other witness-statements.

The cover-up over the murder of Stephen Lawrence
Why did MetPlod prefer to be thought “racist” or even “institutionally racist” rather than admit what was painfully obvious to large numbers of Londoners, that the local police were hand-in-glove with the local gang(s), some of whose members had actually committed the killing? It is highly likely that some local officers were corruptly involved with the aforementioned gangs, but it seemed easier to lie, and to hassle S Lawrence’s companion on that day, rather than to make an arrest for murder.
Note that this is different from the case of the notorious Kray twins, who had managed to wangle high-level political protection, through blackmail, until they actually committed a gun-murder in public, at which point the police were able to successfully “get” the people they knew were violent criminals, but were prevented from touching, up to that point.

The Murder of Blair Peach
By members of the disbanded Special Patrol Group. Beaten to death in a suburban front garden-patch, for being on the wrong grid-reference. The death covered up enough to ensure that the uniformed murderers have escaped with pensions paid for by our taxes.

And many more.

Who shall guard the Guardians?

And can we believe a word they say, under almost any circumstances?

Anonymous said...

I have had difficulty with this one, I made a comment on .... in which I stated that it seemed that all sorts of people knew what had really happened on that day, including the writers of TV melodramas.

I thought but expressed badly my feeling that the sudden revelation by the authorities reveals more about them than any "side" actually involved in the events.

I followed your advice Raedwald, I went and had a proper read of Anna Raccoon's piece (having only scanned it previously), and in this case one of my favourite bloggers, wrote some horrible things...

However, in being so provocative she has really concentrated the minds of the various commenters, and one by somebody called:

I copy'n'paste here (with thanks), as it seems to really hit the n on the h.

"I remember the day very well, I was only just a teenager and was struck dumb at the scenes. Too young to remember Heysel, Hillsborough was an earth shattering movement for me. I had and still have no connection to Liverpool, either the city or the football club. However I do know football like the back of my hand.

It was a vicious circle, and one that is still repeated today in other spheres. A small number of attendees at football matches acted like animals, and so the whole were treated like animals. Their movements restricted, being barked at by a police force expecting the worst. Being necessarily defensive, the police acted how they do best when confronted with a big crowd that may or may not be hostile – treat them as being hostile. This is true of all football at the time, not just Hillsborough. Treating the crowd as a hostile force, the crowd responded as a hostile force. Thus there is no desire from either side to listen to, or comply with, the orders and/or requests from the other.

You then factor in an industry with the worst customer service record, secure in the knowledge that if you treat your customer like crap, he’ll still come back, it is commercial tribalism which is unlike anything, with the possible and inexplicable tribalism displayed by iPhone and Android devotees, mad individuals who will scream at each other for their choice of mobile phone. That attitude from football resulted in terrible stadia and a slapdash attitude toward the customer. Then consider that the hosts of this event were not even hosting their own supporters, these were somebody else’s devotees who could be treated like crap, wonderful!

Finally you then have a very limited commodity that everyone wants, so naturally they go along whether they have a ticket or not, they might get lucky, they might pick up a ticket by fair means or foul. They might sneak in. It’ll only be me and my mate. The fact that there are 10,000 me and my mates doesn’t get considered. People are thoughtless, the football fan is thinking of the match, not of the logistics of crowd management. It doesn’t make him bad, it makes him human.

Hillsborough was a tragic but perfectly predictable outcome, and it had been predicted. Heysel should have been the wake up call, but it was ignored. If anything it made the police tighten their grip and clubs treat supporters even worse.

Who was to blame? Everyone. The FA for choosing the ground, the police for their poor planning and bad attitude, the ticketless fans for trying to get entry. All of them. No-one is without virtue, no-one is without fault.

The attempts by the authorities to cover their tracks in the aftermath? That’s another story."

Anonymous said...

Sorry... I forgot to fill in the dots above.

It should have read "The Boiling Frog".