Hillsborough: A Quick Vow Of Silence From Me
April 1, 2014
by Martin Odoni
Just a fairly brief murmur from me – probably the last one for quite some time, at least on the subject of the Hillsborough Disaster.
As I assume most readers are reasonably well aware by now, the Coroner’s Inquest into the Disaster has been, as it were, ‘re-booted’, after the original Inquest that Dr Stefan Popper made such a horlicks of in the early-1990’s was quashed in December 2012. The second attempt to establish an accurate cause-of-death began yesterday, under the guidance of Lord Justice Goldring, and for the duration of proceedings, which will probably last over a year, the whole subject of the Hillsborough Disaster and all subsequent events has officially become subject to the Contempt Of Court Act 1981. This makes all media discussion – including social media discussion such as online blogs – a very delicate exercise. As Goldring himself made clear in February; –
“[The jury] must decide… solely on the evidence they hear in court… Nothing (whether by way of comment or otherwise) should be published (including by way of online commentary or social networking sites) which could run the risk of prejudicing the outcome of the proceedings.
“The Coroner has the power to refer anything published to the Attorney General if, in his view, it may amount to a contempt of court.”
The Attorney General Dominic Grieve further stipulated on the 10th of March caution against “commentary which may prejudge issues that witnesses may give evidence about”. Some might be suspicious of this, especially given the history of murky behaviour by the legal industry following the Disaster, and I must confess it does not sit all that well with me from a freedom-of-speech standpoint. But in the final analysis, I do have to concur with it; the original Inquest was fatally undone by prejudiced behaviours on the part of those investigating the Disaster, and it is therefore essential, for the credibility of the re-booted proceedings, that it be completely unsullied by any form of outside opinion, no matter which ‘side’ it leans towards. There are plenty of South Yorkshire Police apologists out there who take a perverse view that any defence of the victims of Hillsborough is ‘propaganda’, and would eagerly use any excuse they can find to discredit the new Inquest, especially if it reaches a different conclusion from the first.
I do not imagine that any of the jury are at all likely to find my blog anyway – I am under no illusions that I have an ‘audience of millions’ (or even an audience of a thousand, if I am being perfectly honest) – but even so, I must do my bit to help preserve the integrity of the new Hillsborough Inquest; however slight the danger is of this blog having any impact at all on the process, it is best to eliminate that danger entirely. I will leave all material I have so far published fully available for anyone to read, but I cannot continue writing new essays about Hillsborough while the Inquest is in progress, as many of the details I would touch upon could easily intrude on the ground it must study. (And yes, I am perfectly happy to admit that the idea of being tried for Contempt Of Court is rather less appealing than the idea of having a flaming arrow fired through my eye, and then finding it has a copy of a Manchester United/Plymouth Argyle fanzine attached to it.)
But just before The Hillsborough Disaster Index goes into limbo, I would like to express publicly my hopes that, during the gruelling months ahead, the bereaved families of the 96, and the survivors of the Disaster, are able to maintain the exceptional courage, resolve and perseverance that they have displayed in such ample measure for so long, against such terrible odds.
You really will Never Walk Alone.
I’ve just realised that the date of this article may provoke a skeptical eyebrow, but no, I am not hoaxing, I genuinely do have to suspend all public writing about Hillsborough until the Inquest ends. I have been kindly invited to become a Hillsborough ‘scribe’ on the Red-And-White-Kop forum, and am likely to continue writing about the Disaster there, but the section of the forum I will be contributing to will be kept strictly private until next year. With the other users’ permission, I may publish excerpts from there in the future, but that will not be until at least the spring of 2015.