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The Hillsborough Disaster

The Hillsborough Disaster refers to the events of April 15, 1989 in which  numerous Liverpool fans were crushed at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday’s ground during Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Due to overcrowding in a standing only section of the ground too many Liverpool fans were allowed into an enclosed space, and 95 of them lost their lives, whilst scores more were injured.

However, what was a tragedy in itself became a scandal as the police and the authorities tried to cover up exactly what happened on the day.

In the days and weeks following the match, the press were fed false stories suggesting that the main cause of the incident was hooliganism and drunkenness on the part of Liverpool fans. Even to this day, copies of the Sun newspaper are hard to find in the city of Liverpool, because many local people have never forgiven it for its portrayal of their fellow citizens.

Meanwhile, a number of police reports were either altered or deliberately falsified in an attempt to mislead investigators even though the Taylor Report in 1990 concluded that the main cause of the disaster was a failure by the presiding South Yorkshire Police Force.

The initial coroner’s inquest ruled that all the deaths were accidental a verdict that the families never accepted. The law courts persistently blocked calls for a  new inquiry, until an Independent Panel was appointed to review the evidence again.

That led to two criminal investigations one to look into the causes of the disaster, and another to examine the behaviour of the police on the day and subsequently.

A second coroner’s inquest subsequently concluded that all the victims had been unlawfully killed, and that the police and ambulance services had been guilty of gross negligence.

It was also determined that the poor design and conditions of the stadium had been a major contributing factor, and the fans were not to blame I any way for what subsequently occurred.

In 2017 six people, including the man in charge of policing on the day, match commander David Duckenfield, were charged with a number of charges, including misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice, and manslaughter by gross negligence.

The charges were controversially dropped against all but one of the defendants, but even now, 32 years after that fateful day, the matter is not over. This week two former police officers and a solicitor went on trial for perverting the course of justice, and for altering their statements on the day of the disaster.

Meanwhile the agony of many of the families continues. Having had to cope with their loved ones initially being bandied as criminals, a number of those campaigning for justice went to their graves before their names were cleared.

And no apology has ever been received by the government of the day of Margaret Thatcher, no lover of football herself, who was quick to label all those involved as hooligans.

Now the new trial has brought the events of that Saturday afternoon back into focus again.

For those fans who left home to attend a football match and never came home, the long wait for justice is not over yet.

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