Letter from Amol Rajan


I don't usually go in for victims' justice.

Tabloids often squeal of the need to take into account the feelings of victims when meting out justice; yet victims, still hot with anger, are ill-qualified to dispense justice coolly. But in the case of the Hillsborough files, I find myself persuaded otherwise.

A full 22 years after the appalling scenes that left 96 Liverpool fans dead mainly, it seems, because of a series of police errors, we still don't have the full information about what happened and why. That information exists, in private papers to Margaret Thatcher and police correspondence from the days after the disaster. But the Government won't release them, saying obtusely that any release should be managed by the Hillsborough independent panel set up by Labour.

What utter nonsense. The Cabinet Office is right that the families of victims, who have waited 22 years to know why their relatives perished, should be told first. But that is no excuse for the delay, which only gives the impression that they have something to hide. For another thing, an e-petition calling for the documents to be released has hit the 100,000 target necessary to force MPs to debate the issue, so the Government might as well stay ahead of the curve and display its much vaunted commitment to openness.

This is a rare and simple chance for the Government to put itself on the side of the public. Football stars have noted this already: Joey Barton has implored his followers on Twitter to get behind the campaign, and Rafa Benitez heroically donated £96,000 to it in his last act as Liverpool manager. Amazingly, the Government seems more interested in bureaucracy than common sense, which is curious given David Cameron used to give speeches about a "postbureaucratic age". Perhaps he can intervene to give the still-suffering relatives of victims a chance for closure.

Incidentally, it was ironic and not very funny that Kelvin McKenzie, the former editor of The Sun who produced no shortage of disgusting views on the behaviour of the dead, was on Newsnight recently talking about riots. If there is anyone whose views on public disorder we could do without, it's that witless bloviator.

Simon Kelner is away.