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Huer's Call

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 16, 2012

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We make mistakes. We're just human and that's what humans sometimes do.

We've been taught since school that the only way to make things better is to own up, apologise, and try to make amends. In my work I've often had to deliver bad news to people, and they always cope best if they know a) as soon as possible, and b) everything. People can come to terms with dreadful things, they can be brave and resilient, they can even forgive, just as long as nothing's hidden, nothing's held back. Anything else is an assault on their dignity. It's what drives people crazy.

We all know this. So why, when anything terrible does happen, is it often perceived that the first reflex of those in authority to hold back, hide, dish out bland reassurances, put the best possible gloss on things, and as often as not start right in covering up, concealing and lying, with a possible side order of blame-someone-else?

I suppose sometimes it works, and sometimes they get away with it. Those are the ones we don't hear about, the ones with no heroic advocates ready to take on a long struggle for justice, suffering on in silence. But more often it works just for a while, and only because various tribes take over.

Lawyers for example. Lawyers are often mistaken for fair-minded seekers after truth. Rubbish.

Lawyers are guns for hire and will use all the clever deviations of their craft to prevent justice being done to the person or corporation who's paying them. They love best dealing with other lawyers, knowing they'll all get paid for as long as the egg-timer runs. Their truth is always relative.

Politicians are worse. They're supposed to be on our side but they're the first to fall into a defensive crouch if blame or responsibility loom into sight. Truth and even an apology may come, but only decades too late and never from the persons concerned.

And the worst and most powerful tribe of all, the police – naturally enough, as they think everyone hates them anyway. They stick together and look after each other. When I was young it was unthinkable for a magistrate or judge to take anyone's word against that of a policeman on oath. Now, scores of cases of violence, doctored evidence, concealed facts, graft, corruption, and lie after lie after lie later, we can have no such illusions.

The scandal of Hillsborough is just the latest. If the police had admitted human faults made in the heat of a moment, if they'd taken their medicine at the time, hundreds of decent people could have mourned their dead without the years of bitterness which have compounded their agony, and without the disgust the rest of us feel.

Bad things happen. We make mistakes. And somehow we have to learn to face them without taking cover behind these tribal walls. Truth will out.

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