On April 15, 1989, 96 Liverpool Football Club supporters were crushed to death in a tragic accident at a Sheffield stadium. The police blamed it on the fans; yesterday, the truth came out.
On April 15, 1989, two of England's leading soccer teams met at Hillsborough Stadium. Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were drawn against each other in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, and some 25,000 Liverpool fans made the journey to the stadium at Leppings Lane, Sheffield. By the end of the day, 94 of them would be dead, and later another 2 would die in hospital. Hundreds were injured.
The Hillsborough Stadium disaster was the greatest tragedy ever to mar the sometimes not so beautiful game in the UK, worse even than the Munich air disaster of 1958.
At the time of the tragedy, English football fans especially had a very bad reputation, one that was largely deserved, so when the police blamed the deaths on them, their explanation sounded credible.
There was of course an official inquiry, which was presided over by Lord Taylor - who would later go on to serve as Lord Chief Justice. In January the following year he issued his report - after an earlier interim report - which concluded that the main reason for the disaster was a lack of police control of the crowds.
That report - both versions - have now been removed from the website of South Yorkshire Police (see screengrab below).
A screengrab of part of a page from the website of South Yorkshire Police. The 'Taylor Report' has now been removed.
It remains to be seen how much blame can be laid at the feet of the police; this was not the first time there had been a crush at that particular stadium, although there had been no fatalities previously. As usual though, the police wanted to ensure that no blame would be apportioned to them at all, rightly or wrongly, so they set their PR machine in motion, but they went much further than that.
One thing they did was spread lies that fans had urinated on the police and had stolen from the dead. Disgusting though that was, they also doctored witness statements so that "Some 116 of the 164 statements identified for substantive amendment were amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to [South Yorkshire Police]."
Now, 23 years on, the truth has finally outed, and one of those massive conspiracies the police and the rest of the establishment always deny if not ridicule, has been exposed. This one went all the way up to the then Chief Constable.
There will now be a new inquest, which may apportion blame; yesterday there were apologies all round, and there has even been talk of prosecutions, but it is doubtful if this will happen, nor if charging anyone after so long would be in the public interest, especially as this was not a case of police brutality or of fitting someone up. The man who should be held to account, then Chief Constable Peter Wright, died last year aged 82.
A much more recent case involving only one police officer doing what they all do persistently if not consistently - telling lies - is that of former detective Ryan Coleman-Farrow. Although his lies were on a much smaller scale, they were far more serious because they concerned ongoing rape investigations, or what should have been ongoing investigations. Instead, out of boredom, laziness or for whatever reason, he didn't bother to investigate a large number of rapes, but wrote up reports to the effect that he had. Like most policemen he ended up in court, but unlike most as a defendant rather than a witness.
Yesterday he pleaded guilty to 13 counts of misconduct in a public office relating to 10 rape cases and 3 cases of sexual assault. Normally when a police officer is charged with a serious offence or 13 he pleads not guilty, but he was probably advised that the privilege money can't buy applies only when a copper is bent for the job.
His downfall appears to have been his failure to investigate a complaint by a sex worker that a client was stalking her. Gotta love these euphemisms; didn't women like this used to be called harlots?
Apparently the woman concerned committed suicide, and this was the catalyst for an inquiry which found he had failed to deal with witness statements appropriately, and had falsified witness statement and other things.
What makes this even worse is that Coleman-Farrow worked for Operation Sapphire, the dedicated rape investigation unit.
The Met came in for a great deal of criticism over the case of serial rapist John Worboys, and for an officer investigating allegations of rape to add dishonesty to incompetence in the wake of that beggars belief.
Coleman-Farrow will return to court on October 11 when he can surely expect a custodial sentence. His case was dealt with at Southwark Crown Court, where another bent copper - thug in uniform Simon Harwood - was acquitted last month of the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson, another case that would have been swept under the carpet if his assault on the victim hadn't been captured by a member of the public on his mobile phone.
On Monday, Harwood will appear before an internal disciplinary tribunal, which is being held in public. Hopefully he will be sacked; at his trial he admitted assaulting Mr Tomlinson, but unfortunately that charge was not on the indictment.
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