Insult to victims

GIVEN the damning indictment of South Yorkshire Police in last year’s report into the Hillsborough disaster, which highlighted the force’s clear failings on the day of the tragedy and its disgraceful attempts to shift the blame on to the fans, it might be thought that a period of quiet reflection on its own shortcomings would be 
in order.

Instead of accepting its failings and putting plans 
in place to ensure that they can never be repeated, however, a leaked email from Chief Constable David Crompton to his senior staff suggests precisely the contrary, that the force does not agree with the findings of the independent investigation and continues to be primarily concerned with manipulating its own image.

Of course, it has to be accepted that Mr Crompton has apologised for 
remarks that were never intended for public consumption. Nevertheless, it is what his words reveal about the mindset of South Yorkshire Police that is so concerning.

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In saying of the Hillsborough Campaign for Justice that “their version of certain events has become ‘the truth’ even though it isn’t!!” and that “I just have the feeling that the media ‘machine’ favours the families and not us, 
so we need to be a bit 
more innovative in our response to have a fighting chance otherwise we will just be roadkill”, Mr Crompton’s email not only demonstrates an alarming insensitivity to the victims’ families, but also suggests that the force has an overdeveloped sense of its own victimhood, seeing its media profile as the most important aspect of a tragedy which resulted in the deaths of 96 people.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating the force’s response to the disaster, has condemned the email as offensive and upsetting.

It is more than that, however. It is an indicator that, even now, 24 years after the disaster, South Yorkshire Police is still principally concerned 
with its own image rather than with establishing 
how its handling of Hillsborough and its aftermath went so badly wrong.