Friday, 14 September 2012

Blaming the Victims


23 years ago Liverpool football fans attended a match at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. The stadium had recently been fitted with a high metal fence between the fans and the pitch to prevent pitch invasions and hooliganism, which was rife at the time. The stadium eventually became full to capacity. Yet still police mistakenly ordered another large gate to be opened and pushed more people into the penned up stadium. 

The resulting crush caused the death of 96 fans (asphyxiated) as they had no way of getting out onto the pitch to escape. Over 700 more fans were injured. In the aftermath, the Liverpool fans were vilified by the press, particularly The Sun newspaper, and the victims blamed for the disaster.  

For 23 years the families of the dead did all they could to get justice for their loved ones. They refused to accept they were the ones to blame. On 12 September 2012, justice was served. An Independent Hillsborough Report Panel made it's conclusions public, and the contents were horrific. Some of the panel's findings stated:

- The police and ambulance service had made a 'strenous attempt' to cover up and hide what really happened on that fateful day
- 116 out of 164 statements were amended, changed and deleted
- Statements they thought were unfavourable or that criticised the police were removed. To put it mildly, the documents were doctored
- Blood alcohol readings were taken from the dead victims, including a 10 yr old boy, in an attempt to demonstrate that fans were drunk. When they could not find alcohol evidence against the victims they even ran a police record check to dig dirt and slur the victims' reputations
- The Hillsborough panel could not find any evidence that the fans didn't have tickets, were violent or highly intoxicated on that day, contradicting what the police had said
- Shockingly, 41 out of the 96 that died could possibly have been saved if the ambulance and/or police had done their jobs properly!
- The football stadium was also criticised for it's severe lack of health and safety
- No Liverpool fan was to be blamed for any of the disastrous events of that day

I don't have the space here to reel off the countless facts that this panel found, but there was a massive cover-up of the truth on that day. 

How could so many individual people from the emergency services we rely upon to protect us and save our lives get it so wrong?
They didn't just fail us, but for 23 years they covered up and twisted the whole blame to stigmatize the actual victims of a tragedy. UNBELIEVABLE. 


So my questions are:
Have you ever been falsely accused of something you didn't do, by family, friends or even an organization? 

We have no choice but to entrust our safety to those who have authority over us, but do you trust them to do the right thing?

Have you ever had to step forward and admit a serious mistake, one that could have resulted in repercussions for you or someone else?

Maybe you need to put something right today and tell the truth. 

I would love to hear your views, comments and opinions on this post.

27 comments:

  1. I've always been amazed at the extent people will go to cover something up, especially people of authority. Its truly sickening when it happens, because more often than not, its not something as disastrous as that. I had never heard of that event, I'm glad it was cleared up, but still, so far after the fact....

    I have an absolute distrust for those in that position. I've seen cops abuse their power more times than I can remember, and I find it hard to respect the police at all.

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    1. Thanks Dan. I had previously heard about this football disaster, but it was not until the facts came out a few days ago, after the Hillsborough Independent Report that I realised how much of a cover up had taken place.

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  2. I was named as a co-defendant in a medical malpractice lawsuit several years ago. The only reason I was named was because I was the primary anesthesia attending on the anesthesia record. The case was a liver transplant, which used to be big, bloody cases. I had done nothing wrong, but because of some oversights in documentation, the person who'd improperly inserted a central IV line, which later caused problems for the patient, was not identified in the record. It was a horrible two year ordeal. Fortunately, I was dismissed from the case, and the case settled out of court. It turns out, the patient who sued, along with her adult sons, were simultaneously being convicted of embezzlement of $1 million, and they probably sued in order to recover their "fortune." What a mess.

    We've had some stampede cases at rock concerts here in the US. I don't understand why people feel they must charge into a stadium, or why no one in those cases seems to be managing the crowd. It's like a herd mentality. The fact that the police and emergency respondents tried to cover their inteptitude is disturbing, but not surprising...most police forces are well-known for their internal corruption.

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    1. Unfortunately, I think you are in one of the jobs on the front line for blame when things go wrong, and that is a great shame. I've seen a number of TV documentaries over the years and the first point of call is always at the door of the anesthetic person, maybe it's protocol or maybe not. I've always been concerned as to whether or not some of the actual doctors, nurses etc are competent in doing the job properly. I've personally experienced so many things whilst in hospital years ago.

      2 years is a very long time to have that hanging over your head Helena, but thankfully you were dismissed from that case.

      I actually hate going to places where there are masses of people, simply because I don't feel that such crowds can ever be managed properly if something were to go wrong. It takes just one person to start a panic and that's it. Thanks for your comments Helena.

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  3. This is shocking, I didn't even know about it. There happened something similar to this in Germany in 2010, too many people in a tunnel, and although I don't think that the victims were accused, nobody wanted to take the blame.

    Luckily, I can't think of anything that I have falsely been accused of, except for little things my brother commited when he told our parents it was my fault, but nothing worth mentioning.

    As you have said, we have no choice than to trust those people. Nonetheless I think it is our duty to rethink their decisions and take nothing they say as the absolute truth. It is our duty to prevent events as in the National Socialism, for example, and we can only do that by questioning everything and, if necessary, stand up to those people, even if it comes from those who have authority. (By the way, sorry for all my points being based on German events, it's just that I can relate to that the most, naturally).

    Again luckily, I can't think of a serious mistake that I had to admit, which doesn't necessarily mean I have never made one, just that I don't remember any.

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    1. Thanks Kleopatra. I agree with you. We sometimes need to stand up and question things, but the hard part can be getting the relevant information to support our case, and maybe from the same people who are accusing us!

      I really don't mind you views being from a German stand-point. That's your experience and I'm always happy for you to share it with us. :)

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  4. Shocking. I remember hearing this story on the news, and feeling that if there was a drunken stampede, it was too bad, but what can you expect? Sigh. 23 years later, I guess I have more of an awareness of the pitfalls of the media, but what of journalistic integrity? My experience is that the truth is STILL covered up - on behalf of those who are powerful, or rich, or have high social standing - or simply from an 'old boys' club' point of view, where those who hurt others are protected to the death by their club members. It is truly sickening. I am so glad that God Himself says "Justice is Mine - I will repay", or it would be impossible to live with at all! Thanks for bringing us the true colours of this story. We need the reminder to judge more slowly, believe less implicitly, and trust with wisdom!

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    1. It is rare that I read newspapers/magazines simply because over the years they have printed so many stories that were untrue, so I don't wish to pay for it. I do feel journalists have a lot to answer for. The truth in itself is enough of a story so why can't they just tell the truth?

      Yes, 'judge more slowly' is a good starting point Melody. I've learnt to do my best to get the facts before making a final decision, and if I make a mistake, say 'sorry' and put it right. Thanks for your thoughts on this Melody.

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  5. High school hell. I find schools are horrendous for shoving their head in the sand and pretending problems do not exist. Anything that proves other wise is the problem. Much like the police and emergency services, their job is to make sure people are safe, and they would rather blame the victim than admit they did not do their job properly. The big flaw in that, beyond blaming the victims, is that the issue does not go away if it is not addressed.
    When I was in high school, grade 11, my locker was vandalized, which would be bad enough, worse was that those lovely clever people who somehow managed to brainstorm the oh so original idea of writing slurs on my locker did not think it was enough, and poured urine down the ventilation holes. Books ruined, full length black suede coat, ruined. To add insult to injury I was told that I (well,my parents) would have to pay to replace the text books before I would be given new ones. The people who bragged about doing it...a three day suspension which was lowered to one day if they "apologized". Yeah, that was sincere. So basically I was forced to listen to forced apologies.... because that is not in itself further humiliation, and a principal who told my parents that things like this would not happen if "some students did not insist on making themselves a target". Translation: There is no homophobia in our school, if only the queers would stay in the closet.

    I also one time had a fellow worker who would constantly break rules. He was caught numerous times, then one time when the boss really got angry, after about 50 times this guy does this, and the boss reading him the riot act, I realized it was my mistake. I owned up to it, and the other guy was very indignant about it. Said the boss "always had to blame a brother" Dude, seriously, he blamed you because you did it all the time. NOT because he is racist. I have no issue owning my mistakes, it means I am moving forward. I am progressing.

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    1. Flaming heck Jamie, they did what to you? and that was the response from the school? Huh. I'm absolutely fuming right now. No wonder why so many kids feel they are being bulled. If this is the school approach and punishment, then they might as well put up a sign saying 'Free target practice for bullies'. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

      Oh, I had to laugh at your other comment about the fellow worker. There are people out there who behave in this exact same way. They go about causing mayhem and when caught or accused, they don't want to understand why. They put the old colour, culture, gender etc twist on it. ie: I was arrested because I was black etc etc..NO. You were arrested because you just broke into that shop and was running away when the policeman grabbed you. THAT'S WHY. Thanks Jamie.

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  6. I am risking to send you and those who dare to read my comment into a fit of boredom!

    My life was, and is, so flat I never experience strange circumstances.

    My answers to your questions are the culprits of my first sentence.

    No, I never was falsely accused, unless that time when I was a junior corporate executive and my boss accused me to steal his golden pen, until he found it in the pleat of his trousers, counts.

    What do you mean we have no choice but to entrust our safety on other hands? or I trust they will do the right thing?, as an example I remember once flying from Reykjavík to Akureyri in
    a little Cessna with ice to my brows. Did I trust the pilot to keep me safe and do the right thing?

    I do not know!

    I started to feel alive again after a hot bath and a change of clothes. It seems some ice percolated into my seat during the fly!

    No, I never was present to any incident worth to be called a serious mistake, or success, for that matter.

    However, I did hear of several of those cases you mention. Where authority should have taken the blame but they chose to hide facts to elude public exposure or even prison.

    It is a shame, but I think we are all human and sometimes we do not have the strength to face our mistakes.

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    1. Untony, sometimes we don't have a choice but to trust what is put on our plates, so to speak. I remember being in hospital and this representative from a medical company gave me a short talk about a new drug they were trying on patients. I refused to accept it, but had a strange instinct within me, that something was not going to be right. I was in hospital at their mercy.

      I later was given medication for my condition at the time. My whole body swelled up like a balloon. I was convinced that they had tried this new drug on me, as my normal medication had never done this before. In this particular situation, I could prove nothing (despite complaining for hours) and I knew the hospital was not going to assist me in a complaint. I had no choice but to shut my mouth and entrust my safety to them. I also didn't fancy coming out feet first - dead, so the rest of my silence was golden :( .

      'Strength to face our mistakes' sounds like a good topic for a post. Thanks for sharing Untony.


      PS: It would have been pure panic for me, if I found ice forming on my eyebrows whilst flying in a Cessna.

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  7. Hey RPD, it's been a while. Good to see you're keeping it up!!!

    My take on this issue: We all know that the people who we trust our lives to are human, just like us, and therefore prone to mistakes etc. Only when they make them, the consequences are so much more dire. We should make allowances. They handle ugly things such as death on a daily basis, so we don't have to.

    What I believe we are entitled to expect from them are a high level of training, professional expertise and competence. In exchange for which they should receive better levels of pay and working conditions to counterbalance the time invested in education and the greater responsibility and pressure upon them.

    What disgusts and appalls me about the Hillsborough situation (I live in the UK) is this:
    The emergency services not only made a genuine mistake in herding fans to their deaths. It is much worse than that. I would expect them to act at all times IN GOOD FAITH. To admit their mistakes and make amends. What makes my blood runs cold is the fact that, while they could still have saved some of those lives, they were more concerned with COVERING THEIR ASSES. At the expense of the victims, with no regard to the shame this brought on their families.

    Thank God the city of Liverpool is one of those places with enough social capital for them to stand united with the families against this slander. One of the things I will always admire about them is the way that for 23 years the Sun newpaper couldn't get sold in that town because they boycotted it after they published their gutter accusations. They say there - 'you'll never walk alone'. In this matter they proved it.

    In situations like these I don't just expect the full weight of the law to be brought down on the perpetrators, but the trust placed upon them WHICH WAS ABUSED should be taken as an aggravating factor.

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    1. PS - The above comment is from Shiloh - I just forgot to put my name!

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    2. Shiloh, nice to hear from you again. Need I say more, definitely in agreement here. I really like how you broke this down with your views. So, thank you so much for participating with your comments.

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  8. Shocking, very shocking that this happened. We should expect the highest level of ethical conduct among those who are charged with proctecting the public. I understand that no one is perfect and sometimes that reality proves tragic. But providing the highest level of ethical conduct also means that when you fail you should be forthright about it. It is disturbing when public officials do the kind of things mentioned in your post to obstruct justice or genuine investigations. This is acknowledgement of wrongdoing. I am glad the truth finally came out.

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    1. Thanks Frank. I'm also glad that the truth was exposed. I hope this also encourages more people to hold fast to what they feel is right and to pursue justice. Sometimes it is the very things that we silently do in darkness, is what rears it's ugly head against us in years to come.

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  9. I remember when this happened--I remember footage of it on the news. It was so horrible and tragic and sad. Here in the U.S. I don't remember hearing anything about blame on the victims but there was also nothing about a police cover-up. Glad the truth finally came out and that the families can finally feel peace, knowing that their loved ones who died are finally at rest.

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    1. Thanks Menopausal mama. More stories like this should get on the news and in the newspapers, all over the world to let people know that whatever happens, not to just give up so easily, especially if you know the truth. I'm glad for the people of Liverpool.

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  10. Your story made me speechless in spite of the fact I should be accustom to such reality already, because while being diagnosed as unfit to any for life (as one who lives on a disability pension,as the veteran of mental hospital-the psycho) I play the independent artist...

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    1. Tomas, what's your story? I'd love to know and thanks for the comment.

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  11. Dear Rum-Punch Drunk, Glad for your interest in my story. It's too long to put in few sentences. In short It was put on the about page of my profile. You may read it on http://artbytomas.blogspot.com/p/who-is-tomas-karkalas.html 313 artworks look for you on my blog http://artbytomas.blogspot.com/ I have 6 active blogs. they all have as my paintings as the thoughts- in short, the depth of the steps we leave in life depends not on our weight but the love to other. My paintings (the digital currently) are the footprints of love -the meditation in color.

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  12. While nothing can ever bring back those who have been lost with all the documents revealed and nothing held back the families, at last, have access to the truth. Anyone like to have a guess as to how many convictions will result from this? My suggestion: ZERO. The CPS will announce that 'Due to the passage of time there is no realistic prospect of any convictions'. Any cases that do make it to court will, no doubt, have the benefit of the judge's summing up, making it clear to the jury that they should acquit. How many convictions of individuals have we seen in previous State cover ups?

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    1. You have expressed some valid points/questions here, and need I say more? Thanks Daily Dose of Musings.

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  13. Being directly involved with emergency services field for over 25 years and having carried out a number of accident investigations, this hits home on a new level. While I will not excuse the actions of the Police by trying to cover-up their short-comings on the day and all the other mistakes made both at the time and the mud-slinging afterwards. I must say that the real culprits have managed to wriggle free to a degree. Who authorized the ground to be used in the first place and why? Like the domino effect this was the first one to fall all the rest in turn could have only happened after this occurred. So my question is were does the blame really lie, as it is easy to identify those who made the mistakes on the day, but someone before then is really responsible.

    Sadly the cover up(s) initiated immediately by the police detracted from the more relevant responsibilities of others (and continues to do so). The real police mistake was to take on so much of the club's own stewarding responsibility, custom and practise over many years. On the day errors were made, and yes, by some individuals. But the corporate failures were the precursers, critical safety decisions should not rely on a few possibly inexperienced (incompetent in the H&S context) individuals, no matter how senior.

    I must say that I am happy for those who lost loved ones that at long last they are learning what went wrong and some of the weight they carry is being lifted.

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    1. You're absolutely right. There is much more to this than meets the eye.

      It's taken so long for the families to finally get to the truth but let's hope that no stone will be left unturned. Thanks again, Daily Dose of Musing.

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