Theresa Griffin, MEP for the North West, pays tribute to the Hillsborough campaigners and calls for more answers
I have lived in the North West, and Merseyside mostly, for over 30 years. For nearly all of that time a shadow has hung over the city – a shadow of injustice and unfairness.
Yesterday, the truth was finally, conclusively, proved as the jury of the Hillsborough Inquest returned its verdict. Justice was finally offered for those who lost their lives at Hillsborough and for the loved ones who have fought long and hard for this verdict.
In the face of what seemed to be insurmountable barriers loved ones, and the people of Merseyside and beyond, battled to secure the release of the Hillsborough documents. Then with cross-party support they managed to establish an independent inquiry.
Even then, lawyers for retired police continued the cover-up – putting relatives and loved ones through even more pain. I pay tribute to my UK Parliamentary colleagues Maria Eagle, Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram and Alison McGovern who have fought hard over the long years to get us to where we are today, working with tireless campaigners from the Hillsborough Family Support Group.
The verdict delivered today could not have been achieved without the dignity and hard work of victims, friends and families, in particular Margaret Aspinall and Jenni and Trevor Hicks.
I remember vividly the sea of people at St George’s Hall Plateau in Liverpool on 12 September 2012 – the night of the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report – all joined as one in a moving chorus of You’ll Never Walk Alone. All joined together, knowing that the truth was out – desperate for justice.
Following this a second inquest was granted and today we know the outcome of the two year hearing. The jurors had to answer 14 questions about the 1989 disaster and they concluded that those 96 fans were unlawfully killed, that it was indeed police error that resulted in the crush and then that the inactions of South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service contributed to the loss of life.
Further, they found that the behaviour of Liverpool fans did not contribute to the dangerous situation at the turnstiles – in fact, they tried to help, they did what they could in a terrible situation not of their own making. We knew this. We knew that there would be vindication for the smears and lies that had been brazened across newspapers.
However, the fight is still not over. Now comes accountability. The current leadership at the South Yorkshire Police needs to explain why it retracted its apology from 2012, furthering the pain of those involved. Moreover, those responsible must be held responsible for the loss of life, devastation and heartache they have caused.
Today a small part of the pain can be sedated and loved ones will be able to grieve, knowing the truth at last. However, this fight for justice has taken its toll on many and we must ensure that such a miscarriage of justice never happens again and that the appropriate parties are held accountable.
My thanks go to all that remained incredibly dignified throughout this battle and thoughts with the 96, those who lost loved-ones and those who, like Anne Williams, have sadly passed away before we got this resolution.
Finally, #JFT96, but more needs to be done to hold those responsible to account.
Theresa Griffin is an MEP for North West England
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