Andy Burnham: We have the truth – now we need justice for the 96

 

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The Independent Online

How do I feel? A mix of emotions. There is euphoria at the utter vindication for the families and the complete achievement of the first objective, which was was to clear the names of the 96. But there is also anger that this was allowed to happen. The passage of time makes it harder, not easier, to accept.

In Liverpool, people who saw people die at close quarters, in unimaginable circumstances, have been walking round for 23 years hearing that in some way they were to blame for what happened. It's hard to understand the psychological impact of that.

On Wednesday, we cleared the names of all Liverpool fans who were there that day, and the value of that cannot be underestimated. But there are also deep questions – the policing system, the coroners' system, the legal system and the political system all failed to bring out the truth. Why?

In the legal system, people prepare a version of events and fight it out in court. That is what they tried to do in this case. But because it came when football supporters were treated as second-class citizens and the police were believed whatever they said, they created a version of events that stuck. When it came to fight out these versions of events in court, the truth wasn't established.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel has done a magnificent job. But it has created a potentially valuable model for government and society in the future, because what it did in a non-adversarial way was to put the emphasis on disclosure, not on two sides fighting their case. If we hadn't made the call for disclosure when we did, it is unlikely the truth about Hillsborough would have been able to be told in the way it has. We are talking here not so much about Cabinet papers, but papers held public bodies; every year that passed, our inability to retrieve this material increased.

All this came together at the right time. The key thing now is that after truth, must come justice. That means a new inquest. I cannot rest until that verdict of accidental death is removed from public record. The case for a new inquest is overwhelming. Only then will we be able to say we have righted one of the greatest injustices on British soil of the 20th century.

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