Campaigner speaks out on Hillsborough

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Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign © Sheila Coleman/Twitter

She’s someone who never holds back and so it proved when Sheila Coleman, the public voice of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, spoke out about recent developments in the aftermath of the independent panel report’s shocking revelations.

Campaign spokeswoman Ms Coleman has fought tirelessly for bereaved families and Hillsborough survivors over the past 23 years, and she has lost none of her will to press on for justice since the high-level apologies flowed in the wake of the report’s findings.

Although Sheila and her fellow campaigners have faced numerous setbacks over the decades, last month’s report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel has gone some way to offering new hope for justice over the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives.

However, Coleman is refusing to get carried away, stressing that any campaign’s position will be “weakened by people accepting apologies”.

Speaking at Liverpool John Moores University’s Redmonds Building as part of the CCSE Critical Research Seminar Series, Coleman expressed caution with regards to the panel’s report as she believes that there has been no real change since it was published.

She said: “There has to be responsibility and credibility. Although events had been established in the documents, we need to keep the pressure up and I urge the public to do so.”

Ms Coleman revealed that her phone may have been tapped, as well as having her home broken into with address books and papers relating to the Hillsborough disaster stolen.

She told JMU Journalism: “I just got on with it. I never really had any time to process what had happened and I could have got frightened and walked away from it all, but I just refused to give in.”

Speaking before Friday’s announcement that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will launch the biggest ever investigation into police behaviour in the UK, Ms Coleman says she has her own plans for one of the key participants in the disaster’s aftermath.

Sir Norman Bettison, the former Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, has faced accusations that he was involved in a ‘black propaganda’ unit attempting to smear Liverpool fans and deflect blame from South Yorkshire Police, who he worked for at the time of the 1989 tragedy.

Bettison announced last week he plans to retire from his role heading up the West Yorkshire force next year, with an estimated £88,000 being paid for by Merseyside tax payers.

“This is just further salt in the wounds of the families,” said Coleman. “The families have paid a high price in their pursuit of the truth; Mr Bettison is just paid a high price. We plan to hold a protest and public meeting on 3rd November with regards to this.”

Coleman feels the recent report let many, including the Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher, off the hook. She added: “There has to be responsibility and credibility. Credible witnesses have never been called up to give evidence which furthers the need for a public inquiry.”

As for the Sun’s apology over its infamous headline ‘The Truth’, Coleman said: “That paper was exposed way beyond Hillsborough. They had a social responsibility irrespective of what they reported and for them to apologise is just a hollow gesture.”

Regardless of what happens in the immediate future, it is certain that the fight for justice will not go away.

About Joel Richards, JMU Journalism