The Attorney General Dominic Grieve made an application in the High Court today to quash the verdicts of accidental death that were the result of the original inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster. This is the first meaningful step for the families of the victims since the Independent panels findings in September. It probably won’t come as a surprise to most people as it has been seen as a inevitable step given the emergence of the police altering statements. Indeed this was one of the main submissions made to the court along with the new medical evidence and information about the emergency services response. But will we ever see any criminal charges being brought in the near future or even at all.
An inquest has the power to rule that a person was unlawfully killed. What it cannot do however is apportion blame by was of a prison sentence. Obviously overturning these obviously wrong verdicts is important as it would bring closure to the families of the victims and formally vindicate the Liverpool fans. The real issue will be whether the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the CPS ever bring charges against the people involved.
Any criminal charges will most likely not be brought until after the conclusion of an inquest. The difficulty will be proving the historic offences such as the altering of statements by the police to remove any criticism of themselves and focus the blame on the fans at the game. The police officers concerned will probably be either dead or retired by now, certainly the ones with any seniority at the time will be. So even finding those responsible will be a challenge before they are even brought before a court. The difficulty then becomes proving that individual officers were responsible, they are very unlikely to have signed their names on the statements they have altered.
Unfortunately as with anything even remotely connected to the legal system it is a slow process. ‘The wheels of justice turn slow’ is still incredibly true today even though the phrase has been in usage since the time of the ancient Greeks. This means any resolution to the disaster, that should have been settled 20 years ago, is unlikely to come any time soon. Hopefully ill still be writing this blog then but who knows how long the families will have to wait for justice.
By Jack Troup