Thursday, September 13, 2012

OK, what happened at Hillsborough ?

I asked this question at CiF last night only to be deleted immediately. Some facts are obviously not as sacred as others.

There seems to be an awful lot of heat but not much light around - enough that I still can't establish from the media coverage what actually happened that day.

The version I had in my head (doubtless influenced by various police leaks) was - large numbers of p****d-up Scallies, some without tickets, turned up shortly before kick-off, things looked nasty outside the ground, and the officer in charge opened the gates, condemning many people inside to an awful death. I didn't have any ideas that the people inside were anything but victims of a most unfortunate (to put it mildly) decision.

And that's pretty much what the interim Taylor report said - with the exception that the police opened the gates not because they feared for public order but because they feared crush deaths outside the ground :

64. Meanwhile, the crowd grew at the Leppings Lane entrance. As more arrived at the back the crush at the front grew worse. Entry to the turnstiles became more difficult. Their efficiency was impaired and their rate reduced. Arrivals at the back exceeded deliveries through the turnstiles, so the build-up increased. The foot officers outside were unable to function and in danger themselves so they went through the turnstiles and out again through gate C where they did what they could to relieve pressure by the tubular barrier. The mounted officers were surrounded by the dense mass of people and became ineffective. Superintendent Marshall was in the midst of the turmoil. He extricated himself and stood on a parapet of the bridge to get a clear view. A drunken fan tried to push him off: a beer can was thrown at a mounted officer. But these were isolated acts by individuals; the menace came from the massive numbers single-mindedly determined to be in for the kick-off with time running out. At the back of the crowd fans were frustrated by the lack of progress as 3 o'clock approached. Some, mostly young men who had been drinking, tried to push and force their way forward. At
the front, people were jammed together and against the turnstile walls. Some panicked as the pressure intensified. Some youngsters and women were fainting and in distress. They were helped out through the tubular barrier by turnstile G or were passed over the turnstiles elsewhere. Fans climbed up and over the turnstile building or on to the dividing fence. This was to escape the crush rather than to gain free entry since most of them had tickets.

65. At 2.44 pm Mr Marshall radioed for reinforcements, for the Tannoy to request the crowd to stop pushing and for a vehicle with loudspeaker equipment to come and request the same... The Tannoy was used but with little effect. Reinforcements, including mounted officers from Penistone Road, were sent. The third request, for a Landrover, was received direct by its driver PC Buxton who arrived at 2.46 pm and urged the crowd by loudspeaker not to push. This was no more effective than the Tannoy. The mounted officers besieged near the turnstiles came outside the perimeter gates. An attempt was made to shut them against the crowd outside, to enable the throng inside to be dispersed or at least thinned through the turnstiles. The pressure from without, however, opened the gates again. Mounted officers, now reinforced to greater numbers, formed a cordon across the elbow of Leppings Lane from the sweet shop to the bridge, again with the object of reducing pressure inside the gates. They were successful in this for some minutes despite desperate individuals forcing their way under or between the horses. However, this exercise was overtaken by a more dramatic relief of the pressure.

"Open the Gates"
66. Between 2.40 pm and 2.45 pm the crowd inside and outside the turnstile approach had swelled to over 5,000. At the head of the phalanx conditions had become intolerable. Those who got through were short of breath and sweating profusely. Many complained to police officers on the concourse inside the turnstiles and asked them in forceful terms to do something. Exit gates A and B were being shaken. It was clear the crowd could not pass through the turnstiles by 3 pm. Police Constable Buxton radioed from the Landrover to control asking that kick-off be postponed. The suggestion was acknowledged but rejected.

67. Superintendent Marshall realised the crowd had become unmanageable. Although loth to do so, since it was contrary to basic police strategy, he decided to request the exit gates be opened to relieve the pressure. Otherwise, he feared fatalities would occur. Other senior officers outside the ground agreed. At 2.47 pm he radioed control to permit the gates to be opened. At 2.48 pm, whilst Mr Duckenfield was considering the request, gate C opened to eject a youth who had climbed in with no ticket. Immediately, fans outside took advantage and about 150 managed to get in before a mounted officer enabled the gate to be closed again. Mr Marshall repeated his request. Still no response from control. He repeated it a third time, adding that if the gates were not opened someone was going to be killed. In the control room, Mr Duckenfield had not made a decision. Mr Murray asked him "Are you going to open the gates?". Mr Duckenfield gave the order and Sgt Goddard radioed to Mr Marshall "Open the gates". Neither the Club control room nor any police officers inside the turnstiles were told of this order before or after it was given or of any action it would require.

68. At 2.52 pm, gate C was opened wide.

Now the new improved report is out, and I've glanced through it, but I've been out most of the evening and it's 354 pages. OK, can anyone tell me what evidence has emerged to revise the above picture?

I couldn't find any but it's quite possible I've missed it.

(Every national newspaper, the House of Commons and the BBC tell me that this report totally changes our view on what happened. So they must be right.)

He's Back Inside

Remember this guy?

I have an awful feeling this story's not going to end well.

Well, he's back in again.

"His arrest in July came just three days after he had been freed from prison in Perth, 30 miles to the north, after spending six years in solitary for previous offences involving nakedness.

Sheriff James Williamson told Gough, who has also refused legal representation, that he was concerned that he had not met or co-operated with social workers drawing up the background report ordered. The sheriff said: "Will you meet with them and assist them?"
When Gough responded, "No, not really", Sheriff Williamson said he had been left with no choice but to jail him for five months. "

I don't blame him for rejecting the social workers and psychiatrists. But he's engaged in a political struggle (one with which I disagree), hoping that the legal system will be the first to blink. In England, maybe - I wouldn't put it past some judges to agree that the right to expose yourself = basic human right. In Scotland, no way - especially not for a 'Sooth-moother'*.

The sad thing is, he's been inside for five years. And the longer he's inside the more he's invested in the struggle and the more inclined he is to throw good years after bad.

* Shetland expression used about anyone from south of Orkney.