Being a lad from Yorkshire, I remember well the Hillsborough disaster. Being a radio ham and our amateur bands were adjacent to the emergency services frequencies. We often kept an ear open to make sure that our transmissions were not causing interference. A friend Jack who lived in Barnsley was well known for his transmissions being picked up by overhead aircraft. The authorities (Home Office) shutting him down until his equipment was fixed.
I can remember listening to the emergency services and to the chaos that was going on. It was total pandemonium. I have often wondered if anyone ever listened to recordings of the transmissions. So much could be learned about what really happened from the tapes. But maybe South Yorkshire police have "lost them" by now.
However, if there was one action that sickened me and continues to do so. It was made on the watch of Kelvin MacKenzie as editor of the Sun.
So what does he have to say on the subject.
“Today I offer my profuse apologies to the people of Liverpool for that headline. I too was totally misled. Twenty three ago I was handed a piece of copy from a reputable news agency in Sheffield in which a senior police officer and a senior local MP were making serious allegations against fans in the stadium. I had absolutely no reason to believe that these authority figures would lie and deceive over such a disaster. As the Prime Minister has made clear these allegations were wholly untrue and were part of a concerted plot by police officers to discredit the supporters thereby shifting the blame for the tragedy from themselves. It has taken more than two decades, 400,000 documents and a two-year inquiry to discover to my horror that it would have been far more accurate had I written the headline The Lies rather than The Truth. I published in good faith and I am sorry that it was so wrong.”
Even a cub reporter would have done a basic check of the sources. So as an individual, what is MacKenzie like and what are his true values.
MacKenzie published in the Sun a front-page story alleging that pop singer Elton John had had sex with underage rentboys. These claims were without any foundation and entirely false.
Elton John sued The Sun for libel over both these claims and was later awarded £1,000,000 in damages. MacKenzie later said of Elton John, "I think The Sun should have its million quid back. It hasn't damaged him at all, has it? Libel can only have a value if there has been some kind of damage, right? Where is the damage? Where? There’s nothing wrong with him. So no, I don’t feel bad about him, not at all."
On the subject of the sensationalist and sometimes inaccurate reporting which appeared in The Sun during his time as editor, MacKenzie has said:
"When I published those stories, they were not lies. They were great stories that later turned out to be untrue — and that is different. What am I supposed to feel ashamed about."
I hope like the News of The World - The Sun is put out of existence by litigation by the families. I hope that MacKenzie also feels the weight of personal damages claims from the families.
After all to quote MacKenzie - "Libel can only have a value if there has been some kind of damage, right?"
There isn't a rock big enough.