Legal Milestones August 1989 Lord Ju stice Taylor publishes interim report find ingthatthe main reason forthe overcrowding which caused the d isaster was "the failure of police control". November 1989 South Yorksh ire police offer an out-of-court settlementto the bereaved and injured, without adm itting liability. March 1990 The coroner, Dr Stefan Popper, takes the highly unusual decision to proceed with the inquests before the investigation of the Director of Public Prosecutions is complete. April 199o"Mini-inquests" begin on each ind ividual victim, under grotesquely li mited rules ofevidence. August 1990 The OPP rules there is ins ufficient evidence to prosecute Sout h Yorksh ire police, Sheffield Wednesday FC, Sheffield City Council o r the club's engineers . October 1990 South Yorkshire police launch civil action to reclaim part of the cost of the out-of. court settlement from Sheffield Wednesday and the safety engineers, Eastwood and Partners. Case is settled out of court afte r a secret agreement between the parties, none admitting liabil ity. November 1990 The "generic" inquest resumes, butthe coroner rules that no evidence will be heard about events after 3.15pm on Ap ril 15t h, des pite the belief of many of the families that some victims might have lived but for the chaotic response to the crush. March 1991The inquest ju ry returns a 9-2 majority verdict of accidental death . July 1991The Police Complaints Authority directs that Ch ief Superintendent Duckenfield and Superintendent Murray, the officer in charge ofthe police co nt rol post , s hould face internal police
Ten Short Years continued for a football "bevvy", as many fans still know.
Police questioning on this aspect implied that having a drink somehow made innocent fans culpable fortheirown deaths . But McGovern's Hillsborough TV drama documentary takes obvious but important liberties on this and other points, presumably for dramatic and possibly "political" effect. Apparently, no fan goes ticketless to Sheffield, or even for a single pint before the match, as the police later pummel away grotesquely with questions to bemused and broken parents about football and drink. Drinking, in fact, is strategically expunged by McGovern from the culture.
Nor do we get any sense from the TV version of quite how damaged relations had generally become between some young supporters and the police at this time (though we do get it from the real doctor and ordin
centrality in the TV account of the terrible case of the deaths of the two daughters of the almost impossibly brave and articulate and resourceful Hicks family also rather accentuates these other "absences''. Some other context is probably also important here in order to understand exactly how the police - but also ourselves could get it so badly wrong at football those ten short years ago.
Looking now at the Hillsborough ground as it was in 1989-andcomparingitto grounds today-it seems ary police constable statements which emerged much later) . This, sadly, was just one of the reasons why police responses were completely inappropriate on the day.
In fact, until quite disastrous policing decisions intervene, McGovern's ultimately tragic football day looks, oddly, much more like the spruced up "new" football
"Lordj ustice Taylo r's envisaged accessforall at reason able prices, which is certainly possible. Th e reality, as we all know, has been very different."
almost unimaginable that we would have thought this one of our most up-to-date football venues. We did; it was. Today, of course, the killing fences have gone and so, at the big clubs, have the terraces . When Tony Banks commented in October 1997 that he might look again at the terrace question he was taken immediately experience of the late 1990s than it does an account of the then sometimes deeply troubled sport and the macho posturings "across the barricades" more characteristic of policing and fan cultures at football in the 1980s. One learns nothing here, for example, about how or why these ugly, sunken pens - real death traps had come almost to be accepted by many fans then, and in one of our most "modern" football grounds. The to task by the Hillsborough families who spoke of the the important progress on safety and on hooliganism at football since 1989.
The symbolic shift to seats is probably also important here; a sign of the sport finally moving on from an often desperate period in the 1980s. Ironically, in Liverpool, where the families' cause is otherwise assiduously supported, they are opposed by some on the
Hillsborough: The Truth by Phil Scraton Mainstream,£9.99
FOR SUCH A MONSTROUS EVENT, the Hillsborough disaster has generated relatively few books.There is surely one still to be written, for example, on the impact of both Heysel and Hillsborough on the city of Liverpool and its football clubs. Hillsborough : The Truth does not attempt to take any such broad perspective. Instead it chronicles in substantial detail the horrible events of April i 5th i 989, largely through eye-witness accounts, and the legal aftermath . So narrow is its focus thatthere is barely a mention of the funerals of the victims, the memorial service at Anfield, any of the Liverpool players o r the wider significance of the Taylor Report for football in general
This intense focus on the facts of the matter and the legal process is, by and large, a strength . Scraton is a criminologist, not a social historian or a football writer (certainly not ifhis reference to Wolves' ground as "Molyneux Park" is any guide). And , although the book does not contain much that will come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the case through the media or read previous accounts such as The Day of the
Hillsborough Disaster (Liverpool University Press , i995) , it is an invaluable summary of the available evidence, including material from South Yorkshire police only recently released. Scraton sensibly lets the stories of individuals on the day and the subsequent judicial process speak for themselves. His points are forcefully made but no hyperbole is necessary, since the bare facts are so extraordinary and appalling.
Even after ten years and with so much of the material all too fam iliar, the sheer awfulness of that day and the scandalous behaviour of the police hierarchy (in particular) still have the power to move and to outrage. Apart from the quiet heroism of the victims' families and the disgraceful role ofcertain high-profile individuals (Sir Bernard Ingham in i 994 insisted Taylor had "whitewashed the drunken slobs who caused the disaster"), two points stayed with me.
The first, explicitly stated by Scraton, is the role of the South Yorkshire police in disseminating the beliefthat thedisasterwas caused by the uncontrollable behaviour of drunken , riotous fans . It is easy to forget now that the Sun's notorious front-page headline was only the most vile interpretation of the line effectively spread by the police in the days immediatelyfollowingthedisaster and maintained more subtly in the years since.