What do the Hillsborough families, the victims of phone hacking and the brave soldiers who fought in Iraq have in common? They are being strung along by legal and political bureaucracies that need to remember the old maxim that justice delayed is justice denied.
Hillsborough happened in 1989,the Iraq War was in 2003, Leveson reported last November amid press and politician promises of swift action.
There are plenty of explanations for why those responsible for Hillsborough haven’t been brought to justice, why the verdict on the politicians who took us to war in Iraq has still not been delivered and why we still haven’t got an agreed structure to stop the press plundering people’s privacy. It is all taking too long and the result is that the Hillsborough agony is prolonged, the doubts about the Iraq war remain as we contemplate what to do about Syria, and the press remains defiant about legislation underpinning a new code of practice.
Of course accused people, whether they be South Yorkshire police officers, Tony Blair or press barons are entitled to time to defend themselves, but not this much time.
As Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son at Hillsborough, said recently “ I am really tired of this now. I want it over.” The euphoria after the quashing of the original verdicts has now been replaced by a realisation that justice is going to take a long time. The authorities are not moving as fast as they could. For instance at a pre inquest hearing recently the judge was told there had been delays in the Home Office signing off the recruitment of officers for the investigation. Inexcusable. This week the Home Affairs Select committee has said the Independent Police Complaints Commission is “woefully under equipped” for investigating the South Yorkshire force.
Meanwhile Anne Williams, who also lost a son, has died. Only after the new inquest verdicts are delivered (and depending on what they are) can any prosecutions begin. Am I alone in thinking the passage of time, and the apparent lethargy of some of those involved, could lead to the whole thing petering out to the intense frustration of the Hillsborough victims?
Kate and Gerry McCann were subject to gross misreporting and intrusion after the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine. The Dowlers’ missing daughter’s phone was hacked. Yet seven months after the Leveson Report politicians and the press are in a stand off that is a disrespectful to the victims of press excess. The political parties reached a deal on what should be done. Some press barons don’t like it, so what? As Lord Denning said “Be you ever so high, the law is above you.” Get on with legislation, there’s plenty of parliamentary time.
Four years ago Sir John Chilcot launched his inquiry into the Iraq War which took place ten years ago. Some people are speculating it could be next year before it reports. Presumably one of the reasons for mounting this expensive exercise was to inform future decisions about Britain’s foreign entanglements. So it would have been handy to have had the findings before us as we contemplate arming the rebels in Syria.
So what’s the delay? Officially it centres on the release of secret government documents but recently former Foreign Secretary David Owen gave a much more serious reason for the delay. He said Tony Blair and David Cameron were blocking the inquiry from seeing extracts of exchanges with former President Bush “using conventions totally inappropriate given the nature of the inquiry.”
Owen went on to suggest this was part of a strategy by Cameron to keep Tony Blair on side and to detach Tony Blair from Ed Miliband and the Labour Party.
True or not, the fact remains that the issues of Hillsborough, Iraq and the press are taking too long to resolve and ordinary people are left in suffering limbo.