Hillsborough inquests: Calls for police accountability
- 27 April 2016
- From the section Liverpool
Calls are being made for senior police officers to be held accountable for the deaths of 96 fans in the Hillsborough disaster.
Inquest jurors found they were unlawfully killed and pinpointed police failures before and after the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.
Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram said "now it is about accountability".
The families of those who died declared justice had been done after the jury reached its conclusions.
Their focus has now turned to whether criminal prosecutions will follow in light of the evidence that emerged.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the families said the inquests had "completely vindicated" their 27-year battle for the truth.
Two ongoing criminal investigations into the disaster and its aftermath could finish by the end of 2016.
A police inquiry is looking at the lead-up to the crush on the day of the match, while a separate inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating allegations of a cover-up.
Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, David Cameron paid tribute to the families whose "Twenty-seven-year search for justice has been met with obfuscation and hostility instead of sympathy and answers."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to the "dignity" of campaigning relatives, praising their "steadfastness and determination".
He called for "all those involved in the lies, smears and cover-ups [to] now be held to account".
Val Yates, who survived the disaster, wants the police put in the spotlight. "It raises a whole new set of questions and people will still need to carry on fighting," she said.
"There's been truth, there's been justice and now there has to be accountability. We were all cleared, we were exonerated. We were not murderers, we did not kill our own.
"Their incompetence, negligence, mismanagement - they did it."
Anne Burkett, the mother of Peter, 24, who had travelled to the match with friends, said the story of Hillsborough was one of "human tragedy".
She added: "It is also a story of deceit and lies, of institutional defensiveness defeating truth and justice. It is evidence of a culture of denial within South Yorkshire Police."
Mr Rotheram, who was also present on the day of the disaster, said: "Justice has been served by the verdicts and now it is about accountability."
Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son Christopher died, said fans and the families were "treated in the most despicable of ways" by South Yorkshire Police who "should have been upholding the law".
He called for charges to be brought against the most "high-ranking police officers", adding: "This should never be allowed to happen again."
Dr John Ashton, who was at the match, described the apologies as "mealy-mouthed". He said there was a "moral crisis in leadership" and "people won't take responsibility when things go wrong".
Becky Shah, whose 38-year-old mother Inger died in the disaster, said: "We're absolutely delighted that everything we've been saying for 27 years has finally been proven to be correct.
"The fans have [been] vindicated, totally exonerated from any blame whatsoever. The blame is now lying squarely where it belongs".
The jury concluded that mistakes by South Yorkshire Police (SYP) and South Yorkshire Ambulance Service on the day had "caused or contributed" to the disaster but the fans did not.
Relatives accused SYP of "a culture of denial".
'Avoiding the blame'
Stephen Wright, whose brother Graham, 17, died in the tragedy, said: "The evidence over the past two years has been overwhelming, yet South Yorkshire Police and their senior officers have tried to look truth in the eye and deny responsibility and shift blame on to others."
Liverpool Echo editor Alistair Machray said: "To spend the next 27 years avoiding the blame, in fact worse than that, seeking to pin the blame on football supporters who, as enquiries and now inquests have now concluded were absolutely blameless, that is scandalous.
"Moving on and justice is not possible until accountability has taken place."
Labour MP Andy Burnham, who has supported the campaign, said: "This has been the greatest miscarriage of justice of our times.
"But, finally, it is over."
The names of all those who died will be read out at a commemoration service outside St George's Hall in Liverpool later with 96 lanterns and 96 roses laid on the steps.
Home Secretary Theresa May is due to give the government's response to the jury's conclusions in the House of Commons later.
Meanwhile, the Sun has been criticised for not carrying the story on its front page on Wednesday.
The paper sparked a mass boycott when, four days after the disaster, it ran a front-page story headlined "The Truth", alleging some fans had picked victims' pockets and urinated on police.
It ran a full-page apology in 2012 over its reporting of the disaster after years of criticism.
Speaking after the jury's conclusions, former editor Kelvin McKenzie said he was "profoundly sorry for the hurt" caused.
A spokesman for the paper said it was covering the conclusion of the inquests on pages eight and nine, and in its leader column.
Survivor Philip Goveas, who was 31 at the time, said the paper's coverage was "an absolute joke and a disgrace".
Hillsborough campaigner Trevor Hicks, whose daughters Sarah and Victoria died in the disaster, said he had spent "an awful long time" wondering "what purpose in life I had".
"It robs you of everything," he said.
Mr Hicks added that the inquests' conclusions would not mark the "end of the road" for the families. They would no longer be "driving" the campaign, but will continue to watch developments.
'I couldn't mention Hillsborough'
Former South Yorkshire Police officer Fiona Nicol tried to save 14-year-old victim Adam Spearritt as the disaster unfolded.
Speaking after the inquests concluded, she described how she "couldn't mention the word Hillsborough without getting upset" for 10 or 15 years, and still remembers "certain people's faces".
She said: "It was my day off but because it was such a big match they asked for volunteers to work."
Ms Nicol said she has never been to a football match since that day, and won't let her children go to matches "even thought they are adults".
Match commander, Ch Supt David Duckenfield, was found "responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence" due to a breach of his duty of care to the fans.
Barrister Paul Greaney, QC, who represented the rank-and-file officers at the Hillsborough inquests and questioned Mr Duckenfield as he made his apology to fans, said he had expected him to "answer the questions" he put to him.
He told the BBC: "What surprised me was the starkness of his answers and the lack of qualification."
BBC match commentator Alan Green, who was at the FA Cup semi-final match on 15 April 1989, said he "cried with relief" when he heard the jurors' answer to Question 6 (unlawful killing).
He said he also felt "anger and guilt" and paid tribute to the "extraordinary strength, persistence and dignity" of the families over "27 horrible years".
Mr Green said he was "constantly thinking about the dignity of the fans" trying to load bodies onto makeshift stretchers as police were "standing around doing nothing", and added the police and ambulance response had been "chaotic".
Operation Resolve, the criminal investigation into the disaster, is being led by Assistant Commissioner Jon Stoddart.
Prosecutors have said they would "formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body based upon all the available evidence".
The IPCC is also considering offences including perverting the course of justice, perjury, and misconduct in public office.
Current SYP Chief Constable David Crompton said the force "got the policing... catastrophically wrong".
He said his force "unequivocally" accepted the conclusions of unlawful killing and the wider findings.
Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust Chief Executive, Rod Barnes said it "fully accepted" the jury's conclusions that mistakes were made, adding it was "truly sorry".