Hillsborough: a Personal Perspective


Every last detail of the Hillsborough story breaks my heart – as a police officer; as a lifelong Liverpool supporter; as a human being.

As a human catastrophe, it is amongst the most vivid and terrible of my lifetime – in this country at least. It is the story of ninety-six people who went to see a football match and didn’t come home. It is the story of hundreds more who were injured; of thousands more who were there. And it is the story of a group of families faced with a kind of grief – drawn out over decades – that is beyond the experience or imagining of most of us.

As a British policing catastrophe, it is right down there amongst the worst of them. The headlines of recent days offer deeply uncomfortable reading for any police officer: evidence of individual deception and institutional collusion – compounded over years and perpetuated by the very people who are supposed to protect us. It is no wonder that even good people begin to doubt us.

Society has every right to expect higher standards of police officers than they do of anyone else. That is because of the promise each of us made – to serve without fear or favour – and the powers each of us has been given. Where we betray that promise or abuse those powers, it is absolutely right that we are held to account. No right thinking Copper would argue otherwise.

But there’s another reason why Hillsborough breaks my heart – and that is the impact it has had (and will continue to have) for every good police officer in this country.

There are tens of thousands of them – and they have been dragged into the mire by the reported actions of their colleagues.

I don’t doubt that there were good police officers on duty that fateful Sheffield afternoon – people who remain haunted by what happened there. And I don’t doubt that there are good police officers on duty in South Yorkshire today.

It was only last month that a Sheffield PC came within moments and millimetres of losing her life as she confronted an axe wielding maniac. She was there because she had answered a call for help from a member of the public. And she is a hero of our time.

Policing finds itself in a deeply difficult place.

There can be no avoiding the sins of the past – and, indeed, those of the present – and there can be no avoiding the urgent need to confront them head on.

But, as we acknowledge these painful realities, we need also to remember the officers who are out there right now: saving lives, finding the lost, protecting the vulnerable, confronting the violent, pursuing the dangerous.

Because the best of them are the best of us all.


12 thoughts on “Hillsborough: a Personal Perspective

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  1. You are a chief superintendent, as was David Duckenfield. If you had been in his position on that fateful day, with little or no experience of taking charge of a large football match, and faced with huge numbers of fans intent on getting in to the ground, can you be sure that you would have been able to make the right call? OK, things were done afterwards that were wrong and brought the whole police service into disrepute, but I actually feel some sympathy for Mr Duckenfield over the events on the day. He did what he thought was right, but was sadly mistaken and resulted in the catastrophe that we all know and are keen to criticise with the benefit of hindsight. “Unlawful killing”? Never in a million years. A tragic accident caused by a mistake made in good faith – certainly. Compounded by years of lies and deceit by people who should have known better. Almost certainly. People need to be held to account for their mistakes and for their misdeeds, but there is a huge difference between the two and the investigations now taking place should take account of that fact.


    1. Dear Christopher Lee,

      If you got into a taxi and there was a crash and a member of your family was killed, and it transpired that the taxi driver had never driven a car before but had driven a motor bike and thought it didn’t look that difficult and driving the car was a mistake made in good faith although this was only revealed after 20-odd years of blaming your family for not using their seat belt even though you knew they had, would you feel sorry for the driver? Gee, it was only with the benefit of hindsight that he knew what to do.

      I hope you never find you or yours in the tender cares of the David Duckenfields of this world.


      Niall Howard. Son of a policeman. Grandson of a policeman. Nephew of a policeman.


  2. It’s not what I occured on that fateful day, accidents and bad decisions are made daily by everyone. We are human. The issue here is with the efforts of many Police Officers to cover up what was perceived. That is an absolute disgrace. I am a retired Polics Officer of 30 years. 27 of those as a Detective. For senior officers to have been involved in this cover up and to sanction actions by Investigators is Criminal to the extreme. It must have happened that at some senior command meeting then a plan of action must have been formulated and carried out. That is the disgrace of this incident and unfortunately it does taint superb rank and file policing. It also appears that the CC of South Yorks admits the failings of the force during this dark period, he openly admits it, then instructs lawyers to paint a totally different picture to the court and spends over 20 million pounds of public money fighting something he has already admitted.

    We police with consent and we must never lose the sight of that. I am a Man Utd fan and on Wednesday last I stood with the people of Liverpool and paid my respects. No one should say goodbye to a loved one to watch a football match and never see them again.

    The cover up was totally and utterly disgraceful and the full weight of the law must come down hard on the wrong doers within the Police who have let down every single hard working cop in this country. Admittedly this was over 20 years ago and thankfully it will probably never happen again.

    A lot of bad police officers who have been involved with this enquiry will now be sitting awaiting the knock on the door. They deserve what is coming to them They have condemned the vast majority of hard working public servants to a course of action to repair trust with the public that will take years to complete.

    That is the disgrace of this incident not the actions of Mr Duckenfield. Accidents happen and none of this would have occurred if people had fallen on their swords as they should have done.

    People just stop, take off you’re policemans head and imagine if you’re child, mother, father, husband wife had gone watching football and never returned. Then the establishment covers up the truth for over 20 years.

    My heart aches to the 96, the families and the city of Liverpool and as a Man Utd fan I have no love for that club. This is about humanity and the loss people have suffered.

    All for a game of 22 people kicking a bag if wind around on a patch of grass.

    This comes from a very proud retired Cop with15 commendations for a variety of Police work, Anti Corruption and international operations not from some disgruntled member of the public. It is heartfelt and as I look at my Certifucate of Loyal Service presented to me by my Chief Constabke I am concerned greatly as to what it will take to repair this damage. This Tory Government has Policing in its sights and everyone will feel the wrath of a vindictive Home Secretary and her obedient flock of Ministers.

    Good people prepare for Chang that you cannot imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What gets my blood boiling is not that people make bad decissions but when they do they want to escape the punishment and conspire to hide the truth in a cover up. In normal cases, not seen today, punishments come with those kinds of decissions, especially when it cost lives to the people they are paid to serve & protect while good decissions brings promotions.

    In any other respectable career, if you can still call it that today, you make a bad call you should be held acccountable, capish.

    That’s the only real way we have to change the faces of bad leaders and get rid of those who do not mesure up hopefully before someone gets killed… well even the olympics and organized sports apparently cheat today to win, our politicians lie like drunken sailors and just about every leader in the known world is favoring their decissions good or bad today and you can’t say anything about it.

    So it’s not only the police it’s the upper class rank and file and how they think they are above reproach and favour themselves over anyone else.

    When the system of the haves and the have nots change you might see alot less civil discontent happening in the world, but I’m quite sure no one will actually believe this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Correct. This is so very typical when the likes of Thersa May and the rest of her Civil Servant cronies dictate that above all money MUST be saved. Don’t they realise that they are destroying the cornerstones of what my once great country was built on. Law enforcement, NHS, Education, I could go on. I see children in my area at food Banks, this is 2016 for gods sake. Now we are told that money has been used for overseas aid that should not have been used. If this was in the real word, it sounds a little like fraud to me but what do I know.

      I completed my 30 years of service and 27 of those was as a Detective. I worked bloody hard but I never ever lost sight of what my life was about. I helped people, I tried my hardest. I covered drug importation into the UK and then specialised in Covert Ops. Again, the satisfaction was dealing with some bad people and putting them where they belong. In prison. I was once Night Detective. I always went onto the night parade with the troops even though i didn’t need to do. I walked out into the garage and who do I see, the then Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw with his SB guys. Do you know this man sat at my desk, i made him a drink in the CID Office, he was talking about what it was like at the sharp end, he shared his Glacier mints with me. Great interesting and caring man. You give an extra 10% to people like this. This total bitch MAY isn’t even human. If I was still in the job, Im sorry I wouldn’t give it an extra minute. I have missed the death of my Father and failed to watch my children grow owing to my loyalty to the job. Thankfully I have a superb wife that has done all the family stuff. Hands up who has done this for “The Job”

      The major issue here is ….WHERE IS THE CREDIBLE OPPOSITION ? No where to be seen, No Alternative. Politicians really don’t care, its all me, me me.

      I have met CC Mike Barton now at Durham , knew him before he was CC, met him at Lancs. Superb understanding great man, sits with you and its as though he’s known you for years, the same with Sir Bernard Hogan Howe. Great man, down to earth understands the basic issues. Its the politics that comes in with them and they’re in a weird situation.

      Politicians stay out of Policing, leave it to the experts. Go fiddle more expenses and remember. In life there are 3 sides to every story.

      There is the right.
      The wrong.
      The truth.



  4. Even after the results from the inquest it’s sad to see ex coppers still closing ranks. Disgusting and indefensible. WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?????


    1. Barry, they should simply step back and understand there is far more to life than drug dealers, pimps, burglars and the like. I’ll tell you when it hit me, I retired in 2005 and without going into detail I’m still working with specialised units providing a specialist input but I’m getting really fed up if it. There is no respect. It’s changed but just before I RETIRED I walked into a room at a location where the Euro fighter is being built, there were about 200 people working on this project, I couldn’t believe my eyes, I spoke to some of them and yes ….get my head out OF the police cloud and understand that there is so much more to life that what I had worked so very hard on for 30 years.

      I have said, I have NO LOVE for Liverpool football club. I’m a Man Utd fan but come on 96 people died here, it’s been covered up by officers more than likely under pressure from senior command and I know that even though I detest the likes of Michael Mansfield who’s probably a very nice man, he’s trained to pick holes in evidence. He and his team have had a field day with this. Ther is no room whatsoever in a disciplined service for corruption. I HATE THE THOUGHT OF IT. I have a commendation for arresting a bent cop who s in full uniform committing burglary. It’s on my wall.

      I’m proud of my career and show everyone my certificate of loyal service, I served the public for 30 years and I’m the son of a coal. Miner with NO EDUCATION. Boy could I catch criminals though. I bloody loved it. I could do it all over again tomorrow apart from this god damn government hell bent on destroying the by fabric of my beloved UK.

      So dear corrupt cops hell bent on destroying the reputation of good hard working officers, let’s see your bowels move when that knock comes to your door. Mr Mansfield sir, From a proud Retired COP. Fill you’re boots and enjoy. They belong to the judicial system, give them what they deserve.


    2. I forgot if anyone of the corrupt office reads this, I remember it well to this day from my advanced CID course. May not be word perfect but it’s close.



      I also cover the Army Air Firce and Navy Acts but I don’t think that’s so important.



  5. Thanks Julie!

    I’ll have a look. Simon recorded an ITV drama which apparently tells the story, and the below has just come into my inbox!

    Have a good day, Nat


  6. Here is my (slightly controversial) opinion on Hillsborough.

    It was not the fault of the fans. Nor was it the fault of South Yorkshire Police.

    It was the fault of the thousands of fans/hooligans who spent most of the 70’s and 80’s turning most of the football games in the country into riots. Every weekend there was another battle, because some people didn’t go there to watch the game, they went there to have a fight.

    So when things went sideways at Hillsborough, the police expected another riot. If there hadn’t been so many riots over the past 10 years, there would have been no cages at Hillsborough, and the crush wouldn’t have happened.

    Watch Life on Mars (the UK version, s01e05) about the start of hooliganism: “and how long before something terrible happens?”

    I’ve lived in Sheffield for 20 years, I have encountered the police 4-5 times. On every occasion they were calm, professional and had perfectly good reasons for stopping me.


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