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Phil Scraton - a truly remarkable and extraordinary Liverpudlian

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Timbo's Goals:
Where would all of us affected by Hillsborough have been without Phil Scraton?

It’s a thought that’s occurred to me at each and every key Hillsborough moment over these past three decades and did so once again as I listened intently to his compelling podcast on the Anfield Wrap [linked immediately below], dealing with the absurdity of the establishment’s latest weasel-worded desecration of true justice.

Would we ever have seen all the heinous reality twisting and unpalatable lies which so characterized our unbearable tragedy and its aftermath vanquished to the self-serving cesspit from where it was hatched without the priceless input of this indefatigable Liverpudlian and his determination to represent the truth and ensure it prevailed?

So many others, including most notably of course the families themselves, the HJC, Kenny and Marina, Jimmy McGovern, David Conn and Andy Burnham have either throughout the entire period or at key periods and moments during it shouldered the fight for justice. However, could the families, the survivors, those others of us who were there that terrible day as well as the wider Liverpool family and other decent folk who witnessed what happened and knew the truth ever have seen that moment when the truth of that day finally prevailed, had Phil Scraton and his uniquely steadfast forensic approach not been at the very centre of the effort?

Myself, for one, struggle to imagine it, which is why I believe the very least this uniquely extraordinary Liverpudlian deserves is a dedicated thread of his own on the main RAWK website.

I speak as someone who attempted as valiantly as I could in those early pre-internet days following April 15th to right the tirade of unspeakable establishment initiated/media driven wrongs. I did so with countless letters and phone calls to that same baying media that drove the onslaught. Ultimately, it proved to be a largely forlorn task. Indeed, the plethora of closed minds I encountered often seemed almost to take perverse pleasure in rejecting or ignoring any representations made, despite the legitimacy of what I was conveying.

As one lone sympathetic national reporter - Mike Langley of The Sunday People - who did happen to know the true reality put it to me at the time in that perfectly worded catchphrase that has been repeated many times since - “the lies were halfway around the world before the truth had got its boots on’.

And so, despite the findings of the Taylor Report, which for all its shortcomings did cite a failure of police control as a primary finding, it remained the pervading inclination – and in many cases the seemingly determined resolve – of so many beyond the bosom of our home city to vindicate the authorities and blame the fans. It meant the hurt and frustration lingered and the convenient scapegoat rhetoric which was fuelling it was to be reiterated many many times over the ensuing years, each time amplifying our collective anguish at the injustice which it seemed we were impotent to dispel.

Then, some five years after the tragedy in the text of his autobiography came Brian Clough’s despicable slur - “I will always remain convinced that those Liverpool fans who died were killed by Liverpool people”. For many back then, Clough’s words were to add a gravitas to their poisonous rhetoric, affording them even more impetus. And once more written efforts and phone calls to challenge that fresh found impetus of ignorance and venom, admirable as they were, were to prove largely futile in dispelling what so many seemed intent on believing. 

Imagine then all this time the feelings of those poor bereaved families exposed to such a persistent and impenetrable onslaught of lies and misrepresentation. Their innocent loved ones crushed to unimaginable deaths whilst much of the world outside laid the blame at the door of their fellow Liverpudlians.

I saw first hand the distress this sort of mantra inflicted on such folks when back in those early days I met with Phil Hammond and his wife Hilda who had lost their 14 year old son Phillip. Phil, who was then HFSG Vice Chairman, and Hilda had immersed themselves in unearthing the truth of Hillsborough and finding justice for their son but felt impotent in making that truth known to the wider world beyond. Desolate is I think the term that most aptly conveys how they felt back then. They despaired. Both of any semblance of justice ever being dispensed and of any sense of prevailing sensitivity and understanding of their plight in that wider world beyond.

They craved support but in those early pre-internet/pre-HJC days, such support was, by definition, thin on the ground. Thankfully, however, they had Phil Scraton. Back then, Phil Scraton by their side provided them with the human comfort blanket of learned and expert assurance they so desperately needed. How vital and irreplaceable he was to them.

To Phil and Hilda and other bereaved families he represented a virtual knight in shining armour; an erudite Criminology Professor at – and on – their side with his vast insight and knowledge of not only the Hillsborough disaster and all its causes and ramifications but also its place in the wider context of other UK disasters and their own corresponding establishment cover-ups. In those days when the families otherwise felt so alone and isolated, Phil Scraton and his team including Sheila Coleman and Ann Jemphrey were there for them. The Scraton team’s depiction of the denial of justice and the promotion of myth in the aftermath of the disaster in their initial No Last Rights publication provided a desperately needed crutch of perspective and sanity.

Crucially, ever since those early days, at every single stage of the Hillsborough story, Phil Scraton has been there for the families. And let us never forget for fans like us, too. To research, to scrutinize, to analyse, to challenge, to clarify, to advise and represent. His scrupulously researched and presented book, The Truth, provided precisely what it promised on its cover. His tireless ever presence throughout the entire Hillsborough justice process culminated of course in the pivotal role he so clearly played within the Hillsborough Independent Panel which unequivocally absolved the fans of any culpability for the disaster and established the culpability of the authorities, crucially their co-ordinated alteration of witness statements to deflect blame onto the fans.

Down the years so many have made tireless contributions to the pursuit of Hillsborough justice – and we honour them all most notably of course the families themselves – but let us make no mistake, Phil Scraton is the ever present individual who more than anybody else has ensured that the true story and legacy of the Hillsborough tragedy will forever be a matter of public record and not, the shameful obfuscation of reality that, forinstance, we witnessed in Manchester earlier this week with the scandalous establishment manoeuvring to prevent the clearly warranted prosecution of culpable individuals which served to inflict yet more anguish upon innocent and damaged souls.

Phil Scraton’s steadfast resolve after so many years of blocked paths to justice, set against hopelessly besmirched and corrupted odds when any prospect of the momentum that ultimately carried the fight to its rightful conclusion seemed but a romanticised pipe dream is a thing to leave us in awe. His indefatigable determination to right the wrong, complementing it with his expert insight provided the families with a unique expertise to match his innate empathy and became a cornerstone so crucial to their fight as well as the background lubrication to ensure that no matter how slowly for so much of the time they might have been turning, the wheels of justice being pushed never stopped inching forward.

RAWK salutes you Phil.

100% - Thanks for everything Prof.

Red Beret:
I would like to add my thanks.

Just listened to the podcast.   He’s a very courageous man who was up against an awful lot of powerful people who didn’t want him to succeed and he never once wavered from his task.  Deserves all of our heartfelt gratitude. 

Great post Timbo. He's an incredible man.


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