Theresa May tells police officers: Face up to the 'poison' of Hillsborough truth
Theresa May has told police officers they must address the “poison" of the findings of the Hillsborough inquests to win back public trust.
The Home Secretary used her speech to the Police Federation’s annual conference today to demand police forces “face up to the past” and also called for further action to tackle domestic and child abuse.
Before Ms May spoke, the conference held a minute’s silence to commemorate the 96 dead Liverpool fans and the Federation’s chair described it as “a tragedy that should never – and will never – be forgotten”.
Coming weeks after a jury concluded the supporters who died at Hillsborough 27 years ago were unlawfully killed, Ms May said past injustices continued to “jeopardise” officers’ work today.
Ms May told the Federation Hillsborough should be the "touchstone for everything you do".
“I do not believe there can be anyone in this hall who does not recognise the enormity of those verdicts, nor can there be anyone in policing who does not now understand the need to face up to the past and right the wrongs that continue to jeopardise the work of police officers today.
“Because historical inquiries are not archaeological excavations, they are not purely exercises in truth and reconciliation, they do not just pursue resolution; they are about ensuring justice is done. Justice: it’s what you deal in, it is your business, and you, the police, are its custodians.
“We must never underestimate how the poison of decades-old misdeeds seeps down through the years and is just as toxic today as it was then. That’s why difficult truths, however unpalatable they may be, must be confronted head-on.
“Let’s not forget when we look at Hillsborough, the principle obstacle to the pursuit of justice has not been the passage of time; the problem has been that due process was obstructed and the police, the custodians of justice, failed to put justice first.”
She did not, however, respond to mounting calls for an inquiry into the 1984 Orgreave clashes between police and striking miners.
Nick Timothy, a former adviser to the Home Secretary, has written an article for ConservativeHome today in favour of an investigation.
“The Hillsborough Independent Panel inquiry showed that sleeping dogs in South Yorkshire Police lied, lied and lied again, not just about their own conduct but about the victims and other football supporters,” he said.
“If we want to prevent that from happening in future, if we want to make sure the police are above corruption, collusion and cover-ups, we need to know when and how these things have been allowed to happen in the past.”
In his own speech to the conference, Steve White, the chair of the Police Federation, offered his “deepest sympathies” to the families who had to wait 27 years for justice.
And he added: “We must draw a distinction between the actions of a minority of senior officers decades ago and the behaviours of the majority of our members today.”