Justice for the 96

Inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at 1989’s Hillsborough disaster recently concluded with new verdicts after two years of hearings. The Dons Trust hails the outcome and pays tribute to the families who campaigned for justice.

On 26 April 2016 – the day we played Portsmouth – an inquest jury in Warrington was returning new verdicts on the Liverpool fans who died in 1989’s Hillsborough disaster. Rather than suffering accidental deaths, as the original coroner’s inquests had decided, the jury found that the Hillsborough 96 had been unlawfully killed and that a catalogue of mistakes by the police and ambulance services had contributed to their deaths.

Crucially for the Hillsborough families who have spent 27 years campaigning to clear their names, the inquest jury also found that the behaviour of Liverpool fans that day had not contributed to the disaster, lancing a myth spread in the media by South Yorkshire Police on the day of the disaster itself and over the decades since.

When we played Liverpool in the FA Cup in January 2015, the Dons Trust had this to say in the matchday programme: “The cover-up and attempt by the authorities to impugn the reputations of the dead fans was made possible by the demonisation of all football fans by the government and media in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“We believe that achieving justice for the families of those who died attending a football match is something that concerns all football fans equally. Regardless of whatever rivalries there are between us, fans of all teams have far more in common than the loyalties that divide us.”

Those sentiments apply just as strongly now as they did then. We are pleased that the new inquest verdicts have finally set the record straight, clearing the names of ordinary football fans who went to watch a football match and never returned home, and who then suffered for over quarter of a century the indignity of having their names dragged through the mud by the authorities.

The Hillsborough families have been relentless in their endeavours to bring the truth to the fore: from the immediate aftermath of the disaster, through the original coroner hearings and the Taylor Report, the disappointment of 1998’s scrutiny by Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, which dismissed many of their concerns, then the encouragement of the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel and the subsequent apology on behalf of the government from Prime Minister David Cameron.

Now, with these new inquest verdicts, the truth has finally been accepted.

The full Hillsborough process isn’t yet over. The Crown Prosecution Service is now liaising with two investigations that may result in charges being brought against some of the senior people in charge at the match, and some of the families have started their own legal challenge against the South Yorkshire and West Midlands police forces.

Whatever the outcome of those proceedings, the Dons Trust hopes that the new inquest verdicts can at least help bring some sort of closure for all those affected by the tragedy. We salute the fortitude that the families have shown for over 27 years as they have sought to correct the injustice their loved ones suffered and to honour their memory. Their achievements are a reminder of what can be achieved when a community comes together to pursue a common goal. They’ll never walk alone.

 

This article originally appeared in the matchday programme for the game against Newport County, played on May 7, 2016.

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