We can still vividly remember the Hillsborough disaster. 96 people died and well over 700 were injured, many seriously because of overcrowding at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989 at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium (a neutral venue).
Yesterday, the victims and their survivors finally received an acknowledgement that the system had failed them. The Hillsborough Independant Panel, set up by Britain's Home Secretary has issued a damning report which can be read in its entirety here.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron apologised on behalf of the government for the failures which caused the disaster. In particular, the longstanding meme that the fans themselves were somehow to blame for their demise was laid to rest, to the relief of those who survived, or those who lost loved ones.
And it would seem that the fallout has only just begun. There are now calls for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to investigate the South Yorkshire Police with a view to laying criminal charges; the Guardian reports:
The IPCC could also investigate disciplinary breaches by the officers, but there are obstacles in the way of taking action against those involved in wrongdoing because most have now left the service.
The panel – which had unprecedented access to 450,000 documents – uncovered the true scale of the South Yorkshire police cover-up, which began in the hours after the fans were crushed to death at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989.
Fresh evidence showed 116 police statements were doctored, victims were tested for blood alcohol levels and checks were carried out on the police national computer to access criminal records in order "to impugn the reputation of the deceased".
Amid growing calls for criminal charges to be brought, South Yorkshire police said they were reviewing matters raised in the panel's report "with a view to making a referral" to the IPCC. Any referral requires them to identify officers and any offences they may have committed.
The announcement came after the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, called for a criminal investigation to be overseen by the watchdog.
"We are asking the Home Office to set out a proper separate investigation into the cover-up and what happened in South Yorkshire police, including looking at criminal charges," she said. "At Hillsborough, people who should have been protected were betrayed and justice was denied."
The move to mount an investigation came as one of the last serving senior police officers involved in the Hillsborough operation rejected calls for his resignation. Sir Norman Bettison, the chief constable of West Yorkshire police, was a key member of a five-strong internal inquiry team at South Yorkshire accused of engaging in a black propaganda campaign against fans to shift blame from the police.
Bettison said he had "nothing to hide" and would not step down. He risked raising the wrath of the victims' families further when he said: "Fans' behaviour, to the extent that it was relevant at all, made the job of the police, in the crush outside Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be." He denied any part in doctoring statements.
But his employer, the West Yorkshire police authority, said it was mounting an internal investigation into the matters raised in the report to assess what action should be taken.
That 96 people who just wanted to watch a football match died at Hillsborough was bad enough. That it has now emerged that police engaged in a systematic campaign to protect their own butts whilst denigrating those who died in inexcusable.
We suspect that the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel will prove to be like a large rock being dropped into a still pond; the ripples will spread far and wide. But the memories of those who died at Hillsborough, and the anguish that their families have suffered for more than 23 years demand that justice now takes its course.
They will never walk alone: