The 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed, inquests have found – and police have admitted they got it “catastrophically wrong”.
A jury ruled that the behaviour of fans was not a factor in the tragedy, which happened when supporters were crushed before an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989.
The jurors also found that errors by the police and ambulance service had “caused and contributed” to Britain’s worst sporting disaster.
The unlawful killing conclusion, reached by a majority of seven out of nine jurors, was greeted with sobbing and cheers at the hearing in Warrington, Cheshire.
“‘Walk On’ Greets Inquest Conclusion”
South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton said the force “unequivocally” accepted the findings, and admitted: “The force failed the victims and failed their families.”
Emotional relatives, many of them in tears, sang the Liverpool anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone outside the court during a break in proceedings and chanted “justice for the 96”.
After the key conclusions were delivered, someone in court shouted “God bless the jury”, and the jurors were applauded as they left the courtroom.
“Police Chief Reacts To Ruling”
Lawyers acting for relatives of the victims said the findings had “completely vindicated” their 27-year fight for justice.
The Crown Prosecution Service has said it will “formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body”, while Home Secretary Theresa May will appear before MPs on Wednesday to set out the Government’s response.
The individual causes of death have been given for each of the victims, as well as the time of death. The majority of the victims died of compression asphyxia.
“Victims’ Suffering Was ‘Horrendous'”
Jurors’ final task was to sign the 96 records of inquest, the official document recording details of the deaths.
They earlier delivered answers to 14 questions about the tragedy that were put to them before they began their deliberations at the end of the two-year jury hearing – the longest in British legal history.
They had to consider a range of questions covering police preparation for the game, policing on the day, the response of the emergency services, management of the stadium by Sheffield Wednesday FC, and the behaviour of fans.
“Mixed Emotions At Jury Conclusion”
To reach a verdict of unlawful killing, jurors had to be convinced that match commander – chief superintendent David Duckenfield – owed a duty of care to those who died in the disaster, and that he was in breach of that duty of care.
They also had to be satisfied that his breach of duty caused the deaths, and fourthly, that it amounted to “gross negligence”.
Mr Duckenfield gave the order at 2.52pm to open exit Gate C in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium, allowing around 2,000 fans to pour into the already packed central pens behind one of the goals.
But the families vowed to overturn those verdicts, and they were eventually quashed in 2012 with the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report.
This concluded that a major cover-up had taken place, in an effort by police and others to avoid the blame for the disaster.