Hillsborough inquest verdicts quashed by High Court

 

Trevor Hicks, of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, on the High Court's quashing of inquests

The High Court has quashed the original inquest verdicts returned on 96 Liverpool football fans who died as a result of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge ordered new inquests after Attorney General Dominic Grieve's application.

Outside court, Trevor Hicks ,of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said it was "a huge step for the families".

The home secretary has also announced a new police inquiry into the disaster.

Theresa May said the new inquiry would re-examine what happened on 15 April 1989.

Mr Grieve said he applied to the High Court as a result of the Hillsborough Panel's report, published on 12 September, which said 41 of those who died might have been saved.

Anne Williams: "I wanted the record put straight"

He added Dr Bill Kirkup, the panel's medical member and a former associate chief medical officer at the Department of Health, had explained 58 of the dead "definitely" or "probably" had the capacity to survive beyond the 15:15 cut-off time.

New evidence undermined the coroner's summing-up, he said, adding later on BBC Radio 4's PM programme, that the report revealed "serious flaws" in the inquest.

He cited concerns about the timing of the fans' deaths, the role of the police and the false allegations that alcohol had played a material part in the tragedy, adding: "It [alcohol] was also used to blacken the reputation of the fans and potentially the victims, in a way that was very unfortunate, completely unacceptable and unfair."

Lord Judge said there was "deliberate misinformation surrounding the disaster".

"There has been a profound and palpable belief that justice had not been done [and] it is clear there are sound grounds for this application," he said.

He added the court wanted to "record our admiration and respect [to the families] for their determined search for the truth about the disaster and why and how it had occurred, which - despite disappointments and setbacks - has continued for nearly quarter of a century."

Analysis

As court five of the High Court filled up with the bereaved and survivors of Hillsborough, the room was full of expectation.

They had travelled more than 200 miles to be here, some leaving Liverpool at dawn.

Campaigner Anne Williams, suffering from cancer, was determined to come, and was brought in to court in her wheelchair.

This moment has been anticipated for more than two decades.

Relatives were so unhappy with the original verdicts of accidental death, they refused to collect their loved ones' death certificates.

And they have always been angry at the coroner's assessment that all Hillsborough victims were fatally injured by 15:15.

For them, the opportunity to see the verdicts quashed and new inquests ordered was too important to miss.

When it came, normal court decorum was abandoned - the room erupted into applause, some relatives cried, and caught in the moment, one woman shouted: "Thank you, your Honour".

Mr Hicks, who lost two daughters in the disaster, said the families "couldn't have written it better".

"It's clear now justice is on its way - I think a lot of us are going to have a much happier Christmas," he said.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said he would do everything to get "new inquests established quickly".

"I have received a request from the Doncaster and Bradford Coroners for a judge to be appointed to conduct these inquests and I am today asking the Lord Chief Justice to make a recommendation to me on suitable candidates as soon as possible," he added.

Mrs May said former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart would lead the new inquiry, focussing specifically on the Liverpool fans' deaths as a result of what happened at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest.

Ninety-five fans died after they were crushed within two pens at the Leppings Lane terrace of Sheffield Wednesday's stadium, while the 96th died three years later after a Law Lords ruling stopping his tube feeding.

Mr Stoddart can recruit his own team but not any officers or former officers with any prior connection to the disaster or from West Midlands, South Yorkshire or Merseyside police forces.

He said his first priority was to meet with "as many of the families as possible" and to "establish a working open relationship with them".

The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster Ninety-six Liverpool fans lost their lives as a result of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989

The original inquest verdicts angered many bereaved families who were told at the 1990 hearing that all victims had been injured by 15:15 on the afternoon of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Evidence covering the response by the emergency services after this time was not heard.

Some relatives travelled to London for the hearing, while other family members and survivors watched on screens in Liverpool Family Court.

Chief Constable Jon Stoddart Jon Stoddart stepped down as Durham Police chief constable in October

Damian Kavanagh, who attended the match and helped care for the injured, said the judgement was "massive".

"I never thought this day would come. It's uplifting to get to this stage and a serious wrong in society is going to be put right," he said.

"It's been an open wound for the city. We went through hell on that day and to get it turned around as if it was our fault, I can't describe it."

Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son, said something had "been achieved here today that's not been achieved before".

"It's took us 23 years to get this, we're not there yet but hopefully now we'll get there," she said.

"We have proved we were telling the truth all along - now we have to get the justice [the victims] deserve."

The Hillsborough panel's findings showed police and emergency services had made "strenuous attempts" to deflect the blame for the disaster on to the fans.

More than 160 police statements had been altered - 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about the policing of the match.

 

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  • rate this
    +92

    Comment number 70.

    To those saying it's a waste of time and "get over it". Perhaps if you had been there, like I was, and lost someone and had to live for 23 years with the finger of blame pointing at you, then you would take a very different view. Even now, people are blaming Liverpool fans. It's disgraceful. You are wrong and it could be libelous.

    Don't let your club bias get in the way. It could have been you.

  • rate this
    +57

    Comment number 64.

    One has to wonder how many resignations or early retirements there will be in the face of an inquiry into the police handling of Hillsborough.

    It may be 23 years on but I wonder if the people commenting here abourt we've heard and seen it over and over again would feel the same way if a member of their family had been a victim in the disaster. It is a wrong that needs to be put right.

  • rate this
    +61

    Comment number 59.

    Seriously, to all those saying what will this achieve - up to 41 fans could have survived this tragedy. 23 years of fans being blamed for this, orchestrated by incompetent and lying "authority figures". Maybe if you'd lost a loved one in such circumstances, your stance would be very different.

  • rate this
    -85

    Comment number 23.

    Yes it was a catastrophe that this happened and yes the whole country knows that the police covered it up and their actions were disastrous but is waiting for and spending money on another verdict really going to make a difference? It's just keeping open the wounds and not letting them heal and the money and time would be much better spent elsewhere, the lessons from the mistakes have been learnt!

  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 22.

    The inquiry should be inependent otherwise we have the police investigating themselves yet again. However, this has been a long time coming and it is to be hoped that once and for all the truth will emerge. In turn any proven wrongdoing by anyone connected with the original investigation should be punished and jailed if necessary. No stone should be left unturned to get to the truth.

 
 

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