IT will fall to the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether criminal charges should be lodged after a two-year inquest into the Hillsborough tragedy determined that 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed. As Home Secretary Theresa May told the relatives of the victims, their haste for belated justice must not compromise a fair trial if officers are charged.
The fact that Mrs May travelled to Warrington to personally brief the relatives is significant in itself. For too long, the Establishment ignored the cries for help from all those families who were not only treated shamefully by South Yorkshire Police in the aftermath of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, but were then subjected to the gravest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history as the embattled force tried – and failed – to mask its shortcomings for 27 years.
This lack of empathy, laid bare by magistrate Barry Devonside whose 18-year-old son Christopher was killed in the Leppings Lane end, is not an offence in its own right, but his own treatment was indefensible because he – and his grieving family – were made out to be criminals rather than victims. From being given misinformation about the whereabouts of his son’s body to claims that he was physically assaulted by police after exercising his right to sit in the public gallery of South Yorkshire Police Authority, the crying shame is that this is by no means an isolated story judging by the newly-published Hillsborough Voices book which chronicles the experiences of families like Mr Devonside’s.
One of the most important sports books ever to be published because of the manner in which it recounts those heart-rending stories that were the subject of this fight for justice, it should be required reading for every police officer, so they not only understand the burning anger of the Hillsborough families, but recognise the importance of their duty to uphold the highest standards of integrity. Irrespective of the CPS decision, there are lessons in human decency which still need to be embraced.
Mockery of justice: Latvian loophole needs closing
SOME will contend that Latvian thug Alfz Baronins should have been deported back to his homeland on the day he was given a 20-year jail term for an savage attack which left his victim Robert Tuck disabled for life. Why, they argue, should UK taxpayers pay for the monster’s detention?
Yet this case must also be considered from the perspective of Mr Tuck and his distraught family. They have been told that there’s no guarantee that Baronins will serve his punishment in full if he is deported, a sentence which reflects the seriousness of the unprovoked attack in Leeds in April 2013 and the threat posed to public safety.
This cases exposes two shortcomings in policy. First, why is Baronins being considered for deportation when the Home Affairs Select Committee revealed last week the number of foreign criminals who were not returned to their homeland after completing their prison sentences in full?
Second, the letter from the National Offender Management Service to Mr Tuck was not only written in a clumsy and careless manner bereft of empathy, but it placed the onus on his family to oppose the deportation decision while admitting that they do not know “how the prisoner’s sentence will be administered if transfer is agreed”.
If this body does not know, who does? Perhaps Justice Secretary Michael Gove can offer an explanation before another mockery of justice occurs.
Crisis of identity: A nation of reluctant Europeans
IT is not surprising that Britons are reluctant Europeans according to a new survey. After all, this is an island country which has never been afraid of standing up for itself when the freedom of all was imperilled by two world wars. People born and bred in God’s Own Country are also proud of their own roots – a certain cricketer synonymous with the Broad Acres was known to introduce himself as “Geoffrey Boycott, Yorkshire and England”.
Yet, while Britain will remain integral to Europe’s future prosperity, and vice-versa, irrespective of the referendum outcome, the public cannot be blamed for becoming totally disenchanted with the EU judging by the tone of the campaign. If politicians cannot be civil to each other, how do they expect voters to become more global in their own outlook? Far from the June 23 vote being a triumph of European politics and democracy, the precise opposite is in danger of occurring as David Cameron and Ukip’s Nigel Farage prepare to go toe-to-toe tonight.