The families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough in 1989, finally have the verdict they have campaigned long and hard over – that their loved ones were unlawfully killed.
The jury in the Hillsborough Inquiry delivered its verdict on Tuesday and declared that the fans were victims of gross negligence at the hands of match commander David Duckenfield and South Yorkshire Police.
The verdict was followed by cries of joy and floods of tears from families of those who died.
The court heard that there were major omissions in the 1989 operational order, and that the police were ‘slow and uncoordinated’ in their response to handle the numbers of fans outside Sheffield Wednesday’s ground.
The decision brings an end to a 27-year-battle for the truth and now could lead to those culpable facing criminal charges.
Following the verdict Sue Hemming, head of the special crime division at the CPS, said: “The CPS will formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body based upon all the available evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”
Match commander David Duckenfield, South Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Ambulance Service, ground engineers Eastwood and Partners, and Sheffield Wednesday were all criticised for the part they played which led to the loss of 96 lives that fateful day – with the jury leveling blame at their feet.
Shadow Home Secretary and Labour MP Andy Burnham, speaking following the verdict, declared: “This has been the greatest miscarriage of justice of our times. But, finally, it is over. After 27 long years, this is real justice for the 96, their families and all Liverpool supporters. The survivors of this tragedy can finally be remembered for what they were on that day – the heroes of Hillsborough who tried to help their fellow fans.
“The Hillsborough Independent Panel gave us the truth. This Inquest has delivered justice. Next must come accountability. For 27 years, this police force has consistently put protecting itself above protecting those hurt by the horror of Hillsborough. People must be held to account for their actions and prosecutions must now follow.
“Disgracefully, lawyers for retired police have attempted to continue the cover-up in this courtroom. They made it an adversarial battle in defiance of the Lord Chief Justice’s ruling. This has been brutal on the Hillsborough families and put them through hell once again. The current leadership of South Yorkshire Police needs to explain why it went back on its 2012 apology at this Inquest, prolonging the agony for the families.
“The sense of relief we feel is tempered by the knowledge that this day has taken far too long in coming. The struggle for justice has taken too great a toll on too many. But the Hillsborough families have at long last prevailed and finally their loved-ones can rest in peace.”
Leading campaigner Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died at Hillsborough, paid tribute to the city of Liverpool, she said: “Let’s be honest about this – people were against us. We had the media against us, as well as the establishment.
“Everything was against us. The only people that weren’t against us was our own city. That’s why I am so grateful to my city and so proud of my city. They always believed in us.
“I think we have changed a part of history now – I think that’s the legacy the 96 have left.”
Prime Minister David Cameron, via his official twitter account, commented: “Landmark day as the #Hillsborough inquest provides long overdue justice for the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the disaster.
“I would like to pay tribute to the extraordinary courage of #Hillsborough campaigners in their long search for the truth.”
The inquest found:
• Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed;
• Fans were in no way to blame;
• There were “major omissions” in police planning and preparation for the semi-final;
• Police response to the increasing crowds at Leppings Lane was “slow and uncoordinated”;
• Errors by commanding officers contributed to the crush on the terrace;
• Commanding officers failed to recognise pens were at capacity;
• Design and layout of the crush barriers in pen three and four were not fully compliant with safety regulations;
• Ambulance officers at the scene failed to ascertain the scale of the problem and the failure to call a major incident led to delays in responses to the emergency;
• A lack of communication, coordination and command and control by police.
More to follow….