Friday, April 29, 2016

'Now put the cops on trial': Hillsborough families call for criminal charges after inquest jury rules 96 football fans WERE unlawfully killed in stadium tragedy

The families of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster have called on authorities to bring criminals proceedings against those responsible for their loved ones' deaths.

A jury in fresh inquests into the deaths today found a series of failures by police and authorities caused the 1989 stadium tragedy - and concluded the supporters were not to blame for what happened.

Relatives of those who perished in the disaster sobbed and held hands as an inquests jury exonerated the supporters and at last held police to account for their errors and the extraordinary cover-up which followed.

The Crown Prosecution Service has said it will consider the results of a police investigation into the handling of the disaster and what followed, as well a probe by the police watchdog, the IPCC.

Two investigations into potential wrongdoing are due to conclude by the end of the year, but lawyers representing the Hillsborough Justice Campaign urged authorities to bring criminal proceedings as quickly as possible.

He said: 'There is still a long road to travel – the recent investigations have already taken three years and we therefore now urge the authorities to conduct rigorous and speedy investigations which will lead to criminal and disciplinary proceedings and to the attribution of final and full accountability.'

The jury's findings present a damning indictment of the way the match was organised and managed - and the failures of emergency services to respond after the disaster unfolded.

The jury - who have listened to more than 1,000 witnesses during two years of evidence - found that:

Police caused the crush on the terrace when the order was given to open the exit gates in Leppings Lane, allowing fans in the street to enter the stadium.

Commanding officers should have ordered the closure of a central tunnel onto the terraces before the gates were opened.

The police response to the increasing crowds in the Leppings Lane end was 'slow and un-coordinated'. Ambulance service errors also contributed to the loss of lives.

Features of the design, construction and layout of the stadium considered to be dangerous contributed to the disaster. The safety certification also played a part.

Sheffield Wednesday's then consultant engineers, Eastwood & Partners, should have done more to detect and advise unsafe features of the stadium which contributed to the disaster.

South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton said his force 'unequivocally' accepts the verdict of unlawful killing and the wider findings reached by the jury.

He said: 'On April 15 1989, South Yorkshire Police got the policing of the FA cup semi-final at Hillsborough catastrophically wrong. It was and still is the biggest disaster in British sporting history... the force failed the victims and failed their families. Today, as I have said before, I want to apologise unreservedly to the families and all those affected.'

Chief Constable Crompton said improvements to stadium safety and policing since the tragedy meant it was 'almost impossible' the disaster could be repeated.

The jurors in the case had been told they could only reach a determination of unlawful killing if they were sure commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield owed a duty of care to those attending the game - and that he was in breach of that duty of care.

The jury were told they also needed to be satisfied that his breach of duty caused the deaths and that it amounted to 'gross negligence'. The jury concluded that this was the case and it was therefore unlawful killing. The gave the decision by a 7-2 majority.

A police probe is now looking at the lead-up to the tragedy and the day of the doomed match itself, and a separate inquiry by watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the alleged cover-up afterwards.

Both the police team and the IPCC will submit files to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) if there is enough evidence for potential prosecutions.

Sue Hemming, Head of the Special Crime at the CPS, said: 'Following the inquests' determinations the CPS team will continue to work closely with [police] and the IPCC as in due course the CPS will formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body based upon all the available evidence.'

Police have not named any suspects, but eight former officers were represented by lawyers at the inquests and what they said in the witness box forms part of the criminal inquiry.

Any prosecution of match commander David Duckenfield must first overturn the stay on future proceedings against him.

Some of the victims' families cheered when the conclusions were returned, others put their head in their hands. Someone in court shouted 'God bless the jury', who after two years considering the evidence were clapped as they left the room.

Reporters who were inside the courtroom said that a party atmosphere broke out in the corridors outside after the verdicts were delivered, with ecstatic relatives embracing and kissing each other - but everyone crying, weeping tears of joy and relief.

Leading Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the disaster, said she was immensely grateful to the people of Liverpool for backing the fight for justice.

She told reporters: '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.'

Surrounded by a sea of camera crews and reporters outside the court, Ms Aspinall added: 'I think we have changed a part of history now - I think that's the legacy the 96 have left.'


Two huge criminal investigations into the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath could finish by the end of the year.

A police probe is looking at the lead-up to the tragedy and the day of the doomed match itself, and a separate inquiry by watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) - the biggest in its history - is investigating the alleged cover-up afterwards.

Hundreds of investigators have worked on both inquiries.

A raft of individuals and organisations could be charged with criminal offences that may include gross negligence manslaughter, misconduct in a public office, perverting the course of justice, perjury, or health and safety breaches.

Police have not named any suspects, but at least eight former officers could face action, including David Duckenfield.

Organisations that could face prosecution include Sheffield Wednesday FC, who hosted the game, Sheffield City Council, which issued the ground's safety certificate, and the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, which was involved in the emergency response.

The Football Association is also subject to investigation.

Both the police inquiry, Operation Resolve, and the IPCC inquiry are expected to finish in December or January, and once files are passed to prosecutors a decision on charges by the CPS is expected to follow within three to six months.

Home Secretary Theresa May is due to give the Government's response to the inquest jury's unlawful killing finding in an oral statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday.

In a statement, Mr Cameron said: 'Today is a landmark moment in the quest for justice for the 96 Liverpool fans who died on that dreadful day in April 1989.

'It is also a long overdue day. The bereaved families and survivors of the Hillsborough disaster have had to wait 27 long years for the full facts of what happened and it is only due to their tireless bravery in pursuing the truth that we arrived at this momentous verdict.

'All families and survivors now have official confirmation of what they always knew was the case - that the Liverpool fans were utterly blameless in the disaster that unfolded at Hillsborough.'

Families of children killed in the tragedy typically received only £3,500. Some of the bereaved say they received as little as £1,000.

Despite today's verdicts - and the fact that some traumatised police officers received 30 times more than victims' families - it is unlikely they will receive any more damages.

Margaret Aspinall has criticised the fact that grieving families had to fund their own legal action - and even pay for the death certificate from the original inquest - while the police had all of their legal fees funded for them.

Coroner Sir John Goldring conceded the Hillsborough hearing had 'not been entirely easy' for anyone, adding that 'sitting on a jury for this length of time in such a demanding and at times deeply moving case is to perform a public service of the highest order'.

One juror had sat for more than two years but just one day after the jury had retired to consider their verdicts, she had rowed with the nine others on the panel, declining to sit with them any longer.

The juror was discharged and the jury panel continued with the remaining nine.

The cost of the Hillsborough inquests and the two major linked and ongoing police investigations is running at more than £116 million and rising.

Publicly-funded court running costs during the inquests amount to around £36.9 million - while the costs for the two current criminal investigations associated with the disaster will be approaching around £80million by the end of this year.

Six public bodies, eight former police officers, the current Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police and the families of the 96 have been represented by lawyers at the inquests and the costs have all been met by the public purse.

The 1991 accidental deaths verdicts from the original inquests were quashed following the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel report after a long campaign by the families of the dead.

Original report here

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