At around 11 a.m. today, the Hillsborough inquest jury gave their answers to the remaining questions concerning the disaster at Hillsborough football ground in 1989 which led to the death of 96 people.
The crucial question for the jury was question 6: “Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed?”
The majority verdict of the jury was “yes”.
The jury also considered a number of additional questions and up to date online reports indicate that the jury concluded that the fans did not contribute to the disaster. Furthermore, the jury agreed that the safety procedures and safety standards at the stadium were at fault and that the police had erred in handling the problem.
I listened to the Today programme on radio 4 this morning which had contemporaneous radio reports on the disaster as it happened back in 1989. I was struck by an interview with a doctor who had been at the scene. He summed up the problems that led to the disaster. He complained that the fans were penned in like sardines and yet there was plenty of space elsewhere on the stands. He angrily stated that the only bottle of oxygen in the stadium was empty and there was not a single defibrillator available. It was, he said, “an absolute disgrace”.
Yes, an absolute disgrace followed by a cover up by the authorities as well to hide their failings.
I wrote about Hillsborough in a blog back in late 2012 when the Independent Panel report was produced which was highly critical of the public bodies involved, including the emergency services and the police. I wrote again about Hillsborough in 2013 following the broadcasting of the powerful Panorama programme on Hillsborough which included hard hitting film footage of the disaster as it unfolded.
A battle for justice and the truth has taken over 25 years to reach this point.
When the independent panel had published its findings in 2012, the Prime minister, Mr David Cameron, apologised in the House of Commons to the bereaved families for the delay in allowing the truth to come to light.
I have commented before that some people regularly attack health and safety. Indeed, Mr Cameron has raised criticism in the past on health and safety and was once quoted as saying that the “health and safety culture will be killed off for good by the government”.
There are many lessons to learn from Hillsborough and certainly in my view one big lesson is that you ignore health and safety at your peril. In 1989 that attitude contributed to the death of 96 people.
Please let us learn from history and from the findings of the inquest jury so something positive may emerge from this tragedy.