When, during a parliamentary debate in October 2011, the Home Secretary Theresa May agreed to release the Hillsborough Papers in full, it seemed as though some justice may finally be done. That justice, however, threatens to be undermined if sections of the documents are leaked to the media before they are viewed in full by the victim’s families.
The leak of some of the papers today to the BBC only serves to muddy the waters of the Hillsborough disaster once again. It gives an airing to the old lie that fans were the sole cause of the tragedy, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Given the shocking number of people who still believe that fans are to blame, this leak, and the faux-authoritative air lent to it by the senior figures involved, will only serve to back up this old untruth for some who are either too ignorant or too prejudiced to believe otherwise.
Essentially, what we are seeing here is an incomplete picture. Without the context of the other papers, this sole leak is meaningless. Whilst it may generate some exciting headlines, it remains fundamentally misleading when judged in isolation.
This is no smoking gun. It doesn’t prove that there was a police cover-up, it also certainly doesn’t prove that fans were the cause of the disaster, it only shows us that the information given to Margaret Thatcher by a senior Merseyside police officer was incorrect. The only person who really gains from this leak is the ‘Iron Lady’ herself, who is seemingly exonerated from any accusations of misinformation and cover-up in the aftermath of the disaster.
The big question here is who leaked these documents, and why? It does have the air of a damage limitations exercise by somebody. It would seem that only those who have something to fear from the contents of the documents would try and manage their release to the media in such a way.