AS THE Birmingham pub bombings becomes the latest miscarriage of justice to haunt the police, some perspective is required.
Police procedures today are very different to the 1970s when interviews with suspects were not even recorded. Yet, as Home Secretary Theresa May made clear to the Police Federation, fresh investigations into past failings are essential if officers are to regain the trust misplaced in recent times.
It’s happened with the Hillsborough inquiry and inquests – the tragedy is that it took 27 years to establish that 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed at the 1989 FA Cup semi-finals when the police’s failings on the day were clear to see before the fatal crush.
It’s beginning to happen with the police investigation into the so-called Battle of Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike – investigations by this newspaper into the links between this inquiry, and Hillsborough, mean Mrs May is duty-bound to, at the very least, release all relevant documentation, including communications between South Yorkshire Police and the then Thatcher government.
And it’s now happening in the West Midlands after fresh inquests were ordered into the deaths of the 21 people killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, a lingering sore after six innocent individuals were wrongly convicted for this IRA-orchestrated atrocity.
If there is new evidence, as justice campaigners contend, it remains to be seen whether an inquest is the best forum to examine, for example, whether the British state had advance knowledge of the attacks – many will say the primary focus should be securing sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.
Equally, it is another reminder that the level of mistrust is such that the families of victims have more confidence in Louise Hunt, the senior coroner for Birmingham, rather than the West Midlands force.
Until the police per se recognise this, today’s officers – many of whom were not even born when the events of Birmingham, Orgreave and Hillsborough were taking place – will find it harder to fulfil their duties.
Back to the future: The return of British Steel
HOW IRONIC that the steel industry is turning back the clock in order to build a better future following a dispiriting and soul-destroying year for all those people whose livelihoods depend on this sector. This follows the relaunch of the iconic British Steel brand after investment firm Greybull Capital completed the takeover of the Tata plant at Scunthorpe and other parts of the Indian conglomerate’s empire.
A vote of confidence in a world class workforce, this deal would not have been possible without steel workers accepting a pay cut – and diminished pension entitlements – in order to give this venture every chance of succeeding in a global market compromised by a glut of cheap steel mass produced in China. It’s now up to Business Secretary Sajid Javid to ensure that there is a level playing field.
Yet the revival of the British Steel brand could, potentially, be inspired. It signifies that this is proud industry which is emblematic of engineering and manufacturing excellence.
From this, it’s also important that the public and private sector look to support Britain’s steel industry when making procurement decisions. Of course prices must remain competitive – that goes without saying – but the final bill to the Treasury could be even greater if the UK not only has to import more steel in the future but pay to support the families of all those workers left on the dole queue because of short-sighted decision-making. There are only so many times that this industry can be saved, a point that Ministers need to accept after being caught asleep on the job when Redcar’s steelworks closed last year.
Bus services grind to a halt
RETIRED bus boss Roger French made a profound point on these pages last week following the trolleybus fiasco in Leeds – buses are a slick form of public transport and new vehicles are just as advanced, if not more so, than rush-hour trains or trams in those cities which do, in fact, enjoy light rail.
Yet, as a new report by Greener Journeys makes clear, buses are in danger of not fulfilling their economic potential is because they, too, are becoming stuck in the same traffic jams which are becoming an increasing bane for motorists across Yorkshire and also the rest of the country.
Should new bus lanes take precedence, even if this means longer hold-ups for drivers? It’s one of many questions which needs to be answered before Yorkshire gets moving again.