The coroner’s jury on the Hillsborough tragedy has condemned the police and some others for their handling of the football crowd at Hillsborough 27 years ago, and especially for the prolonged and expensive cover-up. Now there are demands for truth and justice, which is generally interpreted as meaning prosecution and punishment. In some cases, where the accusation is that a crime has been committed, this will be inevitable, for example perverting the course of justice by falsifying records. This would require prosecution and conviction, with the delay and adversarial procedure involved, but a restorative process afterwards would still be a possibility.
In other cases, however, would families of Hillsborough victims be better served by some kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission than by prosecutions? It appears that what families want more than anything is acknowledgement of responsibility, answers to questions, and action to make a repetition less likely. Is prosecution the best way to achieve this? Let us consider the possible outcomes and the processes by which they could be reached. If the accused pleaded Guilty, there would be no opportunity for dialogue and asking questions; if Not Guilty, the process would be even more protracted. In either case, a punitive sentence on the accused would give no real benefit to the families. Deferment of sentence would be a possibility, but that would require prosecution and conviction first. The prospect of a TRC might well make the accused more willing to accept responsibility. But perhaps it is too soon to suggest it?