Top prosecutor ‘sorry’ Hillsborough families have not got closure
The director of public prosecutions said he is “sorry” the families of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster have not had “justice and accountability” through the criminal courts.
Max Hill QC said the legal team had done “everything we could” and “applied all of the vigour that we could” in their work on the “tragic” case.
The trial of two retired police officers and a solicitor accused of perverting the course of justice following the 1989 disaster collapsed last month after the judge ruled there was no case to answer.
Mr Hill, director of public prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), paid tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the disaster at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989, and their families and friends who have long since campaigned for justice.
Mr Hill told the Justice Committee on Tuesday: “I have to start by paying tribute to the 96, the friends and the families who have gone through, year after year, decade after decade, a search for justice and accountability.
“I think we have to accept now, in 2021, that criminal proceedings have not provided that justice and accountability.”
A dedicated team set up within the CPS gave “their all to try to generate criminal justice outcomes”, Mr Hill told MPs.
He said: “They – and I speak for them – are first in saying how sorry we all are that this process has not led to the closure which the 96 have sought.”
Mr Hill said “exceptional hard work” was put in by the legal team on the prosecution case.
He added: “I maintain that we did everything we could, and we applied all of the vigour that we could.”
Labour MP Maria Eagle said “old slurs” had been reintroduced during the trial and in public commentary afterwards, claiming “there was no cover up – something for which the prime minister of this country has apologised from the despatch box – and also saying that the Liverpool fans rioted”.
Mr Hill said he dissociates himself and the entire CPS from such claims.
He said: “It’s not for me to regulate what defence representatives say either before, during or after trial. That is simply not within the CPS’s power.
“I will say that I dissociate myself, and I speak for the whole of the Crown Prosecution Service, with anything that was said in that article, or in commentary after the case came to an end.”
Following the end of the trial in May, lawyer Jonathan Goldberg QC spoke to Adrian Chiles on BBC Radio 5 Live after his client Peter Metcalf, who was a solicitor for South Yorkshire Police in 1989, was cleared of perverting the course of justice.
Mr Goldberg was criticised for claiming Liverpool fans caused a “riot” ahead of the disaster, but later said his comments were “taken out of context”.
Chiles apologised for failing to challenge the barrister on “evil nonsense” during the interview.
Mr Hill said: “We have never associated ourselves, nor have we built any case on the basis that someone else was to blame, still less that it was fans themselves who were to blame.”
In 2016, a jury at inquests into the deaths concluded the behaviour of fans did not cause or contribute to the dangerous situation which built up outside the ground.
Mr Hill said he had previously met with many of the bereaved families, and will be doing so again in the next two or three weeks.