He knew what he was taking on, [Bishop James] Jones says. He was inducted into Hillsborough, and the bereaved families’ campaign against what they complained was a grievous injustice and a South Yorkshire police cover-up, in his early days as Liverpool’s bishop. In 1999, a year into his post, the Hillsborough Family Support Group asked him to preside at the memorial service for the disaster’s 10th anniversary, and they explained their continuing agonies.
So he knew the panel would be examining the actions of the police and other powerful people and organisations, none of whom had been held legally accountable, taken responsibility or at that stage apologised for the failings that caused 96 people to die. The panel’s report removed 23 years’ distortion of the truth about what happened on 15 April 1989 at Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
“I was aware,” he tells the Guardian, in his first major interview since the panel reported, “that MPs, the police, the media, the judiciary, possibly the government of the day, were in the frame. People might think we in the church are naive; we’re not. We know exactly what we are engaging with.”