by Martin Odoni

Last week’s shattering news that three individuals at the heart of the Hillsborough Disaster cover-up had had their charges dismissed as “no case to answer,” due to what amounts to a legal quibble, has been softened somewhat. Lawyers have announced that an agreement was reached in April between the ignoble South Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police and six hundred and one complainants, represented by solictors Saunders Law, to pay damages. The damages could not be made public until now due to the criminal prosecution still being in progress. The amounts paid out have not yet been disclosed.

The damages claim was submitted on grounds of misfeasance in a public office. Saunders Law assert, correctly, that the blame-shifting attempts of the South Yorkshire Police, with clear assistance by the West Midlands force that should have been investigating them, caused “additional psychiatric injury” to survivors of the disaster and to bereaved relatives.

Some element of justice, but one that rather blocks off full truth, justice and accountability

That the two police forces have paid out underlines the bizarre, ‘split-personality’ outlook the British state has towards the Hillsborough Disaster. On the one hand, last week’s ruling that there is “no case to answer,” indicates that the state does not accept that a cover-up ever happened. And yet, on the other hand, two branches of its police forces have paid out for acts of misfeasance that took the form of a cover-up.

It is a little like the US Government’s attitude to the President Kennedy Assassination, which concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald both committed the murder alone, and committed the murder as part of a conspiracy.

These damages might placate some of the feelings of frustration and injustice that last week’s ruling have inevitably stirred. My own view of that is that it is faintly ridiculous, and makes British Law – at least English Law – look corruptly incapable of overseeing itself, while overlooking the principle of intent being nine-tenths of the law.

My fear is that these damages will be used in future to make it official that the police ‘did nothing illegal.’ After all, a damages court is not the place criminal records are meted out, no matter the size of the damages. So while this means there is at least some element of accountability and redress for the cover-up after all, it might make it doubly difficult for there to be any further movement on Hillsborough in the future.