Hillsborough inquests: Families declare justice is done – BBC News
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Families of the 96 fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster have declared justice has been done after an inquests jury found they were unlawfully killed.
Lawyers acting on their behalf said the conclusions had “completely vindicated” their 27-year battle for the truth.
Jurors found police failures before and during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final led to the fatal crush.
Two criminal investigations into the disaster and its aftermath are ongoing and could finish by the end of 2016.
A police probe 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 the allegations of a cover-up afterwards.
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.”
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.
Fans had not contributed to the danger unfolding at the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday’s ground on 15 April 1989, the inquests concluded earlier.
Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram, who was at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster, said: “Justice has been served by the verdicts and now it is about accountability.”
The focus of the families has now turned to whether criminal prosecutions will follow in light of the evidence that emerged.
Relatives of those who died as a result of the fatal crush at Liverpool’s match against Nottingham Forest accused SYP of “a culture of denial”.
Front page criticised
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.”
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 on Wednesday.
There will be 96 lanterns and 96 red roses laid on the steps of the hall.
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”, which alleged 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 were announced, 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”.
Following the longest inquests in British history, lasting more than two years, the jury found police errors had caused a dangerous situation at the turnstiles and failures by commanding officers had led to a crush on the terraces.
The 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.
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.
It has taken hundreds of statements from police officers.
The watchdog is looking at alleged criminality and alleged police misconduct including:
- Alleged amendments to police accounts
- Accusations that misleading information was passed to the media, MPs, Parliament and the investigations and inquiries set up immediately after the disaster
- The checking of blood alcohol levels and undertaking of police national computer checks on the dead and injured
- The role of West Midlands Police and those who led its investigation after the 1989 disaster
- Allegations that families and campaigners were subject to surveillance after the disaster
Nine jurors reached unanimous decisions on all but one of the 14 questions at the inquests in Warrington, Cheshire.
The coroner Sir John Goldring said he would accept a majority decision about whether the fans were unlawfully killed – seven jurors agreed they were.
When the the unlawful killing conclusion was revealed, families were seen hugging each other in the public gallery and some punched the air.
Jurors at the new inquests found the direct medical cause of death was compression asphyxia in all but three of the victims.
The earliest time of death was estimated from 14:57 and the last up to 17:00.
Tony Bland, the 96th victim, died in 1993 after being left brain damaged, due to or as a consequence of compression asphyxia.
The jury also concluded:
- Police errors caused a dangerous situation at the turnstiles
- Failures by commanding officers caused a crush on the terraces
- There were mistakes in the police control box over the order to open the Leppings Lane end exit gates
- Defects at the stadium, including calculations over crowd capacity, contributed to the disaster
- There was an error in the safety certification of the Hillsborough stadium
- South Yorkshire Police (SYP) and South Yorkshire Ambulance Service (SYAS) delayed declaring a major incident
- The emergency response was therefore delayed
- Sheffield Wednesday failed to approve the plans for dedicated turnstiles for each pen
- There was inadequate signage at the club and misleading information on match tickets
- Club officials should have requested a delay in kick off as they were aware of a huge number of fans outside shortly before the game was due to start
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”.
Who were the 96 victims?
Hillsborough inquests: Families declare justice is done – BBC News