What is justice?
What is justice,
South Yorkshire Police?
Is it the lie you told,
To family’s of the deceased?
Or is it the time,
You watched 96 die,
Crushed up against the fence,
In the hue and cry?
Or is it when,
You didn’t help the wounded,
Adding to the deaths,
Of the many lives that ended?
You confessed that you lied,
But still got off free,
Now that doesn’t seem,
Like justice to me.
By Sarah Mason aged 12 to remember the 96 lost in the Hillsborough disaster.
2012 must go down as the biggest year yet in the fight for justice, and as it draws to an end Irvine Patnick passed away yesterday aged 83.
Sir Irvine Patnick was of course the conservative MP who was forced to apologise after the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report earlier this year for helping to spread police lies about Liverpool fans in the aftermath of the disaster.
Some will say that he’d had 23 years in which he could have apologised, but he waited until the year of his death and the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel to say sorry. Those words so late, and so forced, appear devoid of meaning.
His death robs us of the chance to interview him about exactly who told him what in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, which is a shame.
Sheila Coleman of the HJC summed it up on Twitter yesterday, when she tweeted “Death of Irvine Patnick highlights the time factor in Hillsborough investigations. Will anyone still be alive to prosecute?”
There are many other people out there who colluded to cover up the real truth of the Hillsborough disaster and in doing so perverted the course of justice. It is essential that the wheels of justice turn quickly now, before any of more guilty men and women go to their grave.
Then there is Anne Williams, mother of Kevin Williams, who is fighting terminal cancer and who after such a long righteous struggle deserves to see truth and accountability before she dies. The sad fact is however that many family members have passed since Hillsborough, and tragically they never got the chance to see the HIP and David Cameron’s apology.
Now the truth is known & publicly accepted, the guilty must surely be brought to book quickly to ensure that nobody else passes before justice is done.
Lets hope 2013 is an even better new year for truth and the fight for justice.
As it is New Year’s Eve, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all very much for the support you have shown to my documentary so far. Producing it is one of the proudest achievements in my life, and I couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement so many have shown. Happy New Year to you all.
Part one of my Hillsborough documentary can be watched online now by clicking here
Part two of my Hillsborough documentary can be watched online now by clicking here
This is part one of a three part documentary. Please leave your comments by replying to this post once you’ve watched it!
Follow me @HillsboroughDoc for news on the release of part two.
Your thoughts, memories and experiences about Hillsborough are wanted here please.
They say that everyone knows where they were when Kennedy and Lennon were killed. I’d hazard a guess that everyone old enough will remember where they were, and what they were doing when the Hillsborough disaster unfolded live on the BBC as well.
This page is for your memories, you recollections, emotions and thoughts.
I want this blog and the subsequent documentary to be available to your grand-children’s, grand-children, so the more you can give first hand now, the less speculation will happen by future generations.
What a week it has been. Relentless activity by so many seemed be resulting in too few signatures of Anne Williams e-petition, and with time running out it looked bleak. Then a final effort seemed to hit the right note, and with hours remaining we managed to get the number to pass the magic 100,000 number. At the time of writing there have been 117,012 signatures.
This message is now showing on the e-petiton.
This e-petition has now passed the threshold of 100 000 signatures.
The Leader of the House of Commons has written to the Backbench Business Committee, who are responsible for the scheduling of debates on e-petitions, informing them that the petition has reached 100 000 signatures
The Backbench Business Committee meets weekly to hear representations from MPs for debates in backbench time. The Committee can consider any subject for debate, including those raised in e-petitions, but an MP must make the case for their consideration. More information about the Committee is available on its website http://www.parliament.uk/bbcom
Since the petition was brought to the attention of the Attorney General, he has agreed that he will look at the applications made to his predecessor, to determine whether in his view, the evidence available supports an application to the Court for a new inquest.
I am making a documentary about the Hillsborough disaster, and so the movement to reinstate standing under the working title of ‘safe standing’ is of interest to me. I want to make it clear that this is my personal opinion though. I have probably spent a great deal more time looking into disaster at football than the majority of supporters because the project I am working on, but this is still just my personal opinion.
Today I found myself shaking my head in disbelief as I read the news that the Scottish Football Association has agreed to re-introduce standing areas into football grounds. When this argument raises its ugly head, it always reminds me of the famous George Bernard Shaw quote “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history”.
I am old enough to remember standing at football, and I would not argue for a second that the atmosphere was far better, but I will never accept that it always safe when a large number of people want to move in a confined direction.
Before I look at the arguments for and against, I’d like to question the very phrase ‘safe standing’ that all too easily trips from the tongue these days. Who coined the phrase, and are they suitably qualified to make such a bold statement? Its name uses the Queen’s English to prematurely speak of a theory that has far from been proved in my opinion.
One of the arguments you hear from those who are in favour of safe-standing is that away fans often stand anyway. There are a few massive differences though that makes seating areas incomparable to terraces. They slow down & break up the flow of fans into and out of the stadium. Specifically:
1. If you are standing in a seated area, you have a physical barrier (the seat) between the person in front of you and behind. Crushing on terraces happens when people become too tightly compressed for whatever reason and seats, without question, stop that from happening.
2. A seated stadium means that every single person in that stadium knows where they are supposed to be. You get a stand, a block, a row and a seat number before you even arrive at the ground.
3. When leaving the stadium, the seats once again act as a funnel to direct people back along the rows they were in, before reaching the stairs. That slows the flow of people exiting the ground. It’s still not perfect but it is highly unlikely that a solid mass of people will descend a stairwell to disaster as happened at Ibrox in 1971.
Atmosphere over safety isn’t even an argument for me, so I can’t entertain it. What I can tell you about though is how I was badly crushed against a crush barrier, next to a woman in tears at a premier sporting event in the UK. There was an announcement just before the big off, which prompted hundreds of fans to start moving onto the back of an already full terrace. The lady next to me and I were pinned against a crush barrier, and it was so far into our middle that we found it really difficult to move. I looked over my shoulder and could see ten or twenty heads back that people were still coming, oblivious to the pain being experienced where I was. The scared lady in tears next to me must have felt a momentary lull in the pressure as she quickly ducked down and got under the crush barrier. I managed to get under next and I was extremely relieved not to feel the vice like pressure slowly but surely crushing me into the barrier. This wasn’t at a football match though. No teams were involved and there were no two sets of passionate, tribal supporters. I was at the Epsom Derby, in the posh bit, the Queen’s Stand. Ladies & gents dressed up to the nines, and a spot of horse racing in the sun. Since that day, I have been convinced that if I can get into bother at a relatively posh and passion free event such as the Epsom Derby then there will always be a danger at a football match it you let a large number of people walk together.
In the 1946 Burnden Park disaster, 33 people lost their lives as a gate was opened at the back of the terraces, and too many people ended up in too small a space. There were no fences between the pitch & the supporters that day, but two crush barriers collapsed and a human tidal wave ended in tragedy. After that, I’m sure standing was made safe right?
In 1971, Rangers fans were exiting the stadium with a few minutes of an old firm match remaining. They had just conceded what they thought must surely be the winning goal and decided to leave. As thousands of fans exited down Stairway 13 a huge roar went up from behind them, indicating an equaliser. The official report into the enquiry discredited those that said there was an about-turn by many fans already half-way out of the stadium because of the fans found dead on Stairway 13 were facing the same way. The official report stated that one person probably tripped on the stairs, and the sheer mass of people squashed closely together meant that it caused a domino effect, and the result was 66 people dead at a football match. No perimeter fences to blame, no late-comers either as they had already watched 88 minutes of the match. Just too many people walking together, and one trip led to disaster. Was standing made ‘safe’ after that? The official enquiry looked into what happened, and how it could be prevented in future. So now surely standing was safe and we had learnt every lesson there was to learn?
No. In 1985, after 56 people were killed in the Bradford fire Lord Justice Poppelwell investigated what had happened and recommended what football needed to learn in order to never let it happen again. He noted in his report that had the stand at Bradford had perimeter fences like so many grounds did at that time, then the death toll would have been significantly higher. Watch the fire break out on TV on this video and remember that 2,500 people were in that stand. Have we NOW learnt everything we need to know in order to keep crowds safe?
1981. Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield. Spurs are playing Wolves in the FA Cup semi-final. Despite their larger supporter base, Spurs were housed in the smaller Leppings Lane terracing. You can see a clip of an interview from a Spurs fan who was there that day here but suffice to say there was severe overcrowding, and had the police not immediately opened the gates that led to the pitch the 30 odd serious injuries could have turned into deaths. Right, surely now enough is enough?
In the UK alone that I have mentioned above, 155 people have died at a football match. I fully accept that Bradford was not caused in any way, shape or form by the fact that fans were standing. I include that disaster only to illustrate the point that lessons were understood but not learnt. 1985 might seem a long time ago to us debating whether standing should be allowed at football grounds, but we were not exactly prehistoric then – Neil Armstrong landed on the moon 16 years previously for heaven’s sake, so why is it that we couldn’t make standing safe then?
Hillsborough wasn’t used for semi-finals after the Spurs near miss until 1987. My blog has many Leeds fans who will tell you Leppings Lane was overfull again that year, and that fans were being lifted to the West Stand above to escape the mass of people set like concrete on the Leppings Lane terracing. NOW surely we can enjoy safe standing?
1989. The Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. 96 Liverpool supporters are killed on the site of the near miss in 1981. The death toll in the few disasters I have mentioned above is a total of 246. How many people have died at a football match due to crushing or crush related injuries since we have introduced all-seater stadia? To the best of my knowledge the answer to my rhetorical question is zero. Not one death caused by over-crowding or crushing from 1994 until 2011. In the 18 years preceding all-seater stadia, we lost 195 fans due to crush related problems. Not one since.
What makes us think now that we have all the answers and that standing can be made ‘safe’ when we failed so miserably at learning the lessons after Burnden Park, and after Ibrox and after Bradford, and after Hillsborough in 1981 and after Hillsborough in 1987 and again, fatally in 1989?
I interviewed Professor Keith Scraton in the making of the Hillsborough disaster documentary that I am currently working on. He has spent 20 years studying crowds. He explained to me that in a crowd, each individual lacks the perspective to make informed decisions. They can only see directly around them, and that means that the thousands in a crowd move as one, with no shared intelligence.
I know from experience that when thousands of people arrive in the same space, then the flow is not really in your hands.
I hope I am wrong, I really do, but I can see the ‘safe standing’ working in Scotland for a number of years. The clubs, stewards, fans and police will all become used to arrangements and all will be well in the world. Then, complacency will creep in. Somebody won’t do their job properly, and one day in the future we will have a serious incident again. When it happens, remember George Bernard Shaw because it doesn’t have to be this way.
Improved atmosphere at grounds would be fantastic, but not if it increases the risk of football taking even one more life.
On the 15th April 1989, the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield was full of heroes.
Some of those heroes were junior ranked South Yorkshire Police officers who seemed to say ‘balls to orders’ and to realise that despite the fact they were not permitted to open gates, that other human beings needed their help.
Most of the police force that day however seemed to be totally transfixed in a fog of misunderstanding; long after the dead and dying were being pulled from the Leppings Lane terraces. How could the police still think it was a case of crowd disorder when the vast majority of those that escaped the Leppings Lane terracing just collapsed on the turf? Look up pitch invasion on YouTube, and I guarantee you that no pitch invasion looks even close to the Hillsborough crowd fighting for their lives.
The majority of the South Yorkshire Police officers were still trying to react to a non-existent pitch invasion, when some of the junior officers had acted on instinct and started to help the injured and dying fans. That mind-set of control over safety led them to keep 43 ambulances full of potentially life-saving personnel to be held outside. There was a long cordon of officers along the half way line. This was presumably to stop Liverpool fans reaching the Nottingham Forrest end of the stadium. That was a massive problem though, because the Liverpool fans trying to reach the Nottingham Forrest end of the stadium were only doing so with make-shift stretchers holding critically ill men, women and children.
Today, I met with one of the latterly described heroes who had no idea that he could be described in such a way. I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I didn’t call him a hero at the time either. But he was, whether he likes it or not.
Tony O’Keefe is a fire-fighter. He’s a Scouser living in London, saving lives every other week – no doubt. On the day of the Hillsborough disaster he travelled to the match hoping to see a great game of football and a Liverpool win en-route to Wembley.
Instead, he saw chaos and death. With other Liverpool fans that day he picked up an advertising hoarding holding 15 year old Kevin Williams. Kevin was unconscious, and being carried to the end of the ground where the paramedics were being held.
Tony left Kevin with helpers after 3.30pm. However, in the subsequent inquiry the coroner stated that everybody who died at Hillsborough would have been dead, or would have suffered fatal injuries, before this time. If they were still alive, they would have been beyond saving by 3.15pm was the coroner’s verdict. The overwhelming evidence however is to the contrary of his convenient time.
Tony O’Keefe, a fire-fighter trained in first aid, was convinced that Kevin was alive. PC Bruder attended to Kevin after Tony left him at the Nottingham Forest end of the ground and he felt a pulse. Special WPC Debra Martin attended to Kevin after PC Bruder. She was adamant that she saw Kevin’s chest move, and he opened his eyes. At this point, SWPC Martin held Kevin in her arms and he murmured the word ‘Mum’ before dying; this was at approximately 4pm – 45 minutes after the coroner said no evidence would be heard. All of these real experiences were however bullied out of the officers who experienced them.
The 3.15pm cut-off means that no jury has heard about the appalling reaction to the disaster. It means that they haven’t heard about how the police, in their ridiculous fog of containment held 43 ambulances and many fire-fighters outside the stadium because they thought ‘they’re still fighting in there’.
I urge you to watch one minute of CCTV from that day, and then come back to me to explain how it is possible to see the desperate escaping of fans as a pitch invasion. If you are satisfied that it was an 80’s style pitch invasion, I’d be grateful if you could leave your serial number and rank.
Kevin Daniel Williams was a clever, bubbly, 15 year old boy. He was alive long after 3.15pm, and he wasn’t the only one.
Why won’t people hold up their hands and admit that they were wrong?
22 years later, we’re still fighting to hear the real truth said out loud.
On the day of the Hillsborough Disaster Arsenal entertained Newcastle at Highbury, in a game finished 1-0 to the Gunners.
That day the football hardly mattered to many though, as in Sheffield a human crush took place before the F.A.Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest which ultimately claimed the lives of 96 men, women and children. One boy who died was as young as 10 years old.
Maybe you were at this match or following it on the television or radio? Maybe you had been to Hillsborough previously, and have a story to tell about that?
Spurs & Leeds fans have told their stories about crushing in the ’81 and ’87 semi-finals at Hillsborough, and I have heard from a Man Utd fan who had a terrible experience at the ground in a league game. Some Coventry fans may have been at this game and the 1981 semi-final in which Spurs fans were crushed, thankfully, not fatally?
Whatever you have to say, I’d be grateful if you could leave a reply.
Thanks in advance for your input.
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