by Ray Fleming

It is difficult to pull together the many strands in the new report by an independent panel into the Sheffield Hillsborough football stadium tragedy which took the lives of 96 men, women and children in 1989, most of them supporters of Liverpool FC. But yesterday a glimpse of the muddled minds of some of those directly involved in that event was provided when the Chief Constable of the West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettison, found it necessary to issue a public apology for a statement he had made 24 hours earlier that the behaviour of fans outside the Hillsborough ground had made the job of the police “harder than it needed to be”. At his second attempt Sir Norman acknowledged that “fans were in no way to blame for the disaster”. The Panel chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool was set up in response to the Liverpool families who had lost sons and friends at Hillsborough and refused to accept the evidence and judgements about what happened given in earlier official inquiries and media coverage. Their unwavering belief in their judgement was completely vindicated by the Panel's report which found at best incompetence and at worst outright dishonesty on the part of the public services, especially the police. New inquests into the victims' deaths will now be necessary, possibly to be followed by criminal proceedings after 23 years of cover-up.