There are some people who apparently still believe that the world is only about 6,000 years old. They base this crackpot idea on their reading of various parts of the Bible. This creates a number of problems not the least of which is that dinosaurs must have co-existed with humans. On the other hand the evidence, namely the science tells us that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, that dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago and that humans’ ancestors go back only a few million years, making the scary thought of co-existence with dinosaurs, one worry we needn’t bother about. It just goes to show however that there is no accounting for the weird ideas people can come up up even when confronted with evidence directly to the contrary.
On an entirely different topic, namely Hillsborough, my attention was drawn a few days ago to a post on Youtube in which someone by the name of Thomas Baden-Riess sets out in somewhat rambling form his view that despite arguments, not to mention evidence to the contrary the cause of the death of 96 Liverpool fans in the Hillsborough disaster was the bad behaviour of a substantial minority of Liverpool fans. Those familiar with the Inquests will have a horrible sense of deja-vu.
In the video posted earlier in August 2016 the author refers to having read the interim Taylor report published in the summer of 1989 and the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel published in the summer of 2012. It isn’t clear however from the video that he has read any of the evidence from the recently concluded Inquests or alternatively that he kept up with what was happening during the Inquests by reading the reports of newspapers such as the Liverpool Echo which covered the entirety of the proceedings and which provided very useful and easily digested summaries of the evidence.
The author begins his piece by suggesting that the police teams ran the wrong arguments at the Inquests by trying to suggest the Liverpool fans were drunk, late and ticketless, describing these as “straw arguments” that it was easy for the family lawyers to demolish. He suggests that the police should have argued instead that the deaths were caused by the bad behaviour of the fans. This seems to be based on pure supposition by the author and not by reference to any of the evidence heard by the jury in the course of two years of evidence.
The author might have paused to ask himself why, if his theory held any water, and despite the considerable array of legal talent at the Inquests representing numerous police teams, there was hardly any attempt to raise this particular argument. I lost count of the number of times during the Inquests when the Coroner reminded the jury that no one was arguing that the disaster was caused by hooliganism. It is true that counsel on behalf of the Match Commanders, who left no stone unturned in his desperate attempt to blame the fans, made a brief attempt to suggest that fans entering Pens 3 and 4 of the Leppings Lane terrace around 2.50pm were pushing in a malevolent way but even he gave up on this when the CCTV footage was played and showed no such behaviour. There simply was no evidence of the hooliganism or bad behaviour to which Mr Baden-Riess refers either from CCTV footage or evidence from dozens of police officers at the ground on the day. Without evidence Mr Baden-Riess is left with pure conjecture which is of course no rational basis for making serious allegations.
Nowhere in his video does the author acknowledge the very important fact that many of those who died in the crush were not in the ground before about 2.55pm. I have dealt with this issue in a previous blog here but as this is important it is worth repeating that between a quarter and one-third of those who died only entered the pens after being admitted into the ground by the police through the open exit gate C at 2.52pm. In other words they were part of the mass of people who were allowed to enter the already grossly overcrowded pens. I don’t understand even this author to be suggesting any of the Liverpool fans were intent on suicide.
The football authorities as well as the police were well aware at the time that many fans prefer to watch the game from as near as possible to one of the goals. Fans entering the Leppings Lane end would have seen a large sign immediately above the tunnel with the word “Standing” on it. No alternative entry point to the terraces was obvious. It was in fact possible to enter the Leppings Lane terrace from both ends but the signage to this effect to the right hand side was so small you needed to be right underneath it to read it and to get to the terrace from the left hand side required fans to go through a small gateway in a wall which had no signs on it at all. In addition many fans who gave evidence said that they would have expected, from their experience at other grounds, that once they had gone down the tunnel they would have been able to spread out along the terrace so that if they found the area immediately behind the goal was already uncomfortably full they could have moved towards the sides. However it was only once they had entered the central pens that they realised there was no way to move to the sides short of scaling 5 foot fences. There was nothing remotely irresponsible, much less evidence of hooliganism in deciding to go down the tunnel that afternoon. None of those entering could have known in advance what was happening inside those pens.
The evidence at the Inquests showed, as had the Taylor report and the HIP report that the South Yorkshire Police [SYP] had decided to leave it entirely to the fans to sort out where they stood on the terrace. This farcical policy was known as “find your own level”. It amounted to an abdication of responsibility on the part of the SYP. To this end there were no police officers behind the turnstiles to direct fans as to where to go. In particular and despite clear evidence that this had been done on many occasions before including at the corresponding match the previous year, no attempt was made to close the gates to the tunnel or to post a few police officers who could easily have prevented anyone else going down the tunnel and directed the fans as to how else they could get onto the terrace. It was that abject failure by the SYP that lead to the deaths of the 96 not any supposed acts of hooliganism by them or their mates. That much was clear from the jury’s conclusions at the Inquests.
In the end just as you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, there is no way of persuading everyone of the truth about Hillsborough even if it is staring them in the face. Mr Baden-Riess is entitled to his opinions but the rest of the world should know there is no evidence for what he says. His musings are baseless.