Thirty years ago:
“At one point the police surrounded a coach and it stopped. A woman inside stood up and held her baby up – in a very melodramatic fashion, you wouldn’t normally hold a baby that way for fear of dropping it. But she did. She yelled at the police that there was a baby on board. “There was a pause of about five seconds, then from the back of the police ranks, whistling over our heads came a very large flint that exploded the windscreen over the baby.” Yet that was not the worst thing [the Earl of Cardigan] says he saw that day. “At some point in the crazy melee there was a heavily pregnant woman wandering around. Two policemen came up behind her with batons and clubbed her around the head and shoulders, and down she went.”
These were travellers going to the Stonehenge Solstice festival in 1985, attacked by the Wiltshire Police. The police attacked the convoy using “police tactics used in the miners’ strike to prevent a breach of the peace” (such as mounted South Yorkshire Police attacking picketing miners in Orgreave, on 18th June 1984).
Ten years ago, in 2005, Tony Thompson, the Guardian’s crime correspondent, wrote with apparently sincere bafflement:
It remains a mystery why the police felt compelled to use such violence. With evidence that radio logs of conversations between officers on the day have been altered, the full story may never be known.
Norman Bettison resigned yesterday and Mervyn Barrett withdrew from campaigning to be Police Commissioner of Lincolnshire.
Norman Bettison received the Queen’s Police Medal in the Birthday Honours 2000: he was knighted in 2006. He was appointed Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 1993, he became Chief Constable of Merseyside Police in 1998, he retired from the police in January 2005 to become the CEO of Centrex, which was
“responsible for overseeing the design and delivery of probationer training, investigators training and other key areas. Centrex was also responsible for evaluating police training to see if it actually works. Centrex also set the national police promotion exams, probationer development tests and advised on the assessment of recruits.” (Wikipedia)
Norman Bettison moved on from Centrex in January 2007 to become what he was until yesterday: Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police. He resigned, saying an inquiry into his actions after the Hillsborough disaster was “a distraction” to the force. I’m sure that hoping to save his pension was in no way concerned.
“Please let some good come out of all of this” – the policeman finished his report on the Hillsborough disaster, only to see it heavily redacted for the judicial inquiry in 1989:
David Frost, who as a 21-year-old officer helped to treat fans in the Leppings Lane terraces, told the Lord Justice Stuart-Smith review in 1997 that his superiors made “wholesale changes” to the statements made by him and his fellow officers to “sanitise and protect themselves”.
Mr Frost told the judge how, three days after the tragedy, on 19 April 1989, he and fellow policemen were taken to a pub by a senior officer and warned: “It’s backs to the wall, boys. We’ve all got to say the same thing. Unless we all get our heads together and straighten it out, there are heads going to roll.”
The 16-page original testimony from May 1989, which at times reads like a diary from the trenches of the First World War, was cut down to six pages, the most heavily redacted statement out of all the 116 police statements that were altered. Mr Frost told Lord Justice Stuart-Smith he was ordered to sign the new redacted statement but refused. The final document shows what appears to be Mr Frost’s signature, but it is clearly different from his original handwriting, suggesting that someone involved in the cover-up forged his signature.
David Cameron made an excellent speech today in the House of Commons on the Hillsborough report:
The evidence in today’s report includes briefings to the media and attempts by the police to change the record of events. On the media: several newspapers reported false allegations that fans were drunk and violent and stole from the dead. The Sun’s report sensationalised these allegations under a banner headline, “The Truth”. This was clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt.
News International has co-operated with the panel and, for the first time, today’s report reveals that the source for these despicable untruths was a Sheffield news agency reporting conversations with South Yorkshire police and Irvine Patnick, the then MP for Sheffield Hallam.
The Conservative MP Irvine Patnick reportedly told these stories to Margaret Thatcher when he was walking her round the Hillsborough football grounds. Kelvin MacKenzine says they came from Patnick and an “unnamed police source”. Irvine Patnick was knighted in July 1994.