When I run lessons capture meetings for clients, my opening remarks usually include this phrase, “If we are to learn from what happened, we need to know…what...happened. Not what you’d like to pretend happened, so as to put yourself in the best light and perhaps gain that bonus or that promotion. Not what you’d like to claim happened so as avoid criticism, or minimise embarrassment, or even the sack. But simply this – what happened. Failing to be honest here means that our understanding of the past will be based on false premises, which means the recommendations we make may well be the wrong ones. So please, be brave, be bold and tell it how it is.”What a shame it is that Lord Justice Goldring (the coroner presiding over the current inquest being held to examine the causes of death of the 96 fans of Liverpool Football Club who died at Hillsborough in 1989) had not said something similar to the jurors yesterday, as he set out how the inquest will be conducted.
As reported on the BBC website, where he could have indicated independence of thought and a desire for the truth, instead he has limited, severely, the terms of reference and scope of inquiry. This is because he asked the jury to consider the "conduct of the fans, or some of them, excluding those who died".
He went on to say, "I phrase it in that way because I don't believe anyone will suggest that the conduct of those who died in any way contributed to their deaths."
Perhaps he is motivated by a desire to assuage the fears of the families of those that died and, given the outrageous efforts to conceal the truth by some policemen (through the 'editing' of statements), the desire to seek some form of balance is understandable.
Understandable but completely wrong.
What will happen if DNA evidence is found to link the injuries suffered by one victim to the fists, fingernails or teeth of another? What if such evidence is combined with extremely high blood-alcohol readings? Are the jury not to assign any degree of responsibility on the victims, even in those circumstances?
I know some people, perhaps many, will disagree with me on this but I raise these concerns to alert other to the dangers of deliberate attempts to conceal or limit the truth. No matter what the motivation, however ‘understandable’, efforts to deflect examination must at the very least be revealed for what they are and should be resisted by all of us that care about learning from experience.
If we are to learn from what happened we need to know…what…happened.