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Hillsborough Report - James and the Tongue

“Why don’t you use Daz?”  I asked my mother.  “After all it washes whiter than white!”  I must have been five or six years old and so she patiently explained to me that the producers of Daz were not to be perfectly believed as they had a product to sell and profits to make.

As I have been reading Bishop James Jones report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and I mean not reports of the report but the actual 370 odd page document that you can download from the internet, I have been wondering about truth and in particular why I am not surprised that statements made at the time of the incident by South Yorkshire Police officers were subsequently altered by more senior officers and the solicitors for the force.  Instead of using the contemporaneous accounts of officers, the evidence presented to the Taylor enquiry and others was based on what the report calls “an extensive process of review and alteration of the recollections” 

And I am not surprised, because during my lifetime confidence in institutions’ impartiality and truthfulness seems to have universally diminished.  For example

  • Doctors who said that smoking did not cause cancer

  • Drug companies who denied knowledge of side effects of drugs

  • MPs who misrepresented their expenses

  • The press who are in many matters are hardly to be trusted

  • And not forgetting priests who have abused children in their care

This lack of confidence in what we hear, in what our tongues say, is pernicious.  My wife is a teacher and filtering down to her pupils is a culture of disbelief, distrust in authority, of discord and of disruption.

I rather agree with commentators who say that Bishop Jones’ report is shocking because it reveals the breadth of the failure to “adequately give the public (and particularly the victim’s families) an account of what truly happened that day in 1989.”

As Christians and church-goers we should heed the message of James, the tongue is to be carefully preserved from untruth – we must begin to let it be known that there are people who will stand by the truth wherever they are, that it will be above any self interest or some perceived greater good even in so small a matter a the whiteness of the wash and that we must try our best to lead the nation to a fresh understanding of that.


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