Hillsborough, failure and the British criminal justice system | Letters


David Conn (Once again, the law has failed the victims of Hillsborough, Journal, 6 December) has done more than most to highlight the terrible failings of the British criminal justice system in the 30 years since the disaster at Hillsborough. He has once more done a great service for the families of those killed, the injured and survivors, in exposing the deep-seated flaws in the trial and retrial of the South Yorkshire police’s match commander on the day, David Duckenfield.

He points out how the victims and bereaved of such public disasters have rarely been able to secure justice through the legal system, and he is surely right to be concerned about the likely outcome of future criminal proceedings with respect to the Grenfell Tower fire.

The demand for reforms will no doubt continue. However, in terms of the broader politics of memory surrounding Hillsborough, it is also important to note that the verdict in this case has also encouraged those who are ignorant of the facts or malevolent (and sometimes both), to seek again to undermine the historical narrative established first in the Taylor report, and subsequently at the Hillsborough independent panel of 2012 and the new inquest of 2016.

This attempted re-writing of the truth could be dismissed more easily if some of those individuals who hold such pernicious views were not in positions of influence today.

To paraphrase the academic and author Michael Ignatieff, the crucial outcome of the panel report and the inquests was that they narrowed the range of “permissible lies” as far as Hillsborough was concerned.

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We must not allow the perverse conduct and verdict of this trial to broaden again the scope of such lying, nor permit it to reshape the historical narrative.

That David Duckenfield has been acquitted of gross negligence manslaughter must not be allowed to mean that he as an individual, nor the public authorities who helped to cover up the truth by disgracefully blaming the victims, can escape their guilt in the court of public opinion.
Stephen Hopkins
Leicester

It seems your correspondent David Conn disagrees with the principle of our law that a citizen is presumed innocent of an alleged crime until declared guilty by a jury of his peers. Defence barristers throughout the land will be troubled to hear his accusation that their “wigs, gowns and archaic ceremony” have contributed to this perceived iniquity.
Nick Hall
Lewes, East Sussex

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