Hillsborough victims ‘unlawfully killed’, jury rules

The victims of the Hillsborough disaster. Photo: PRESS ASSOCIATION
The victims of the Hillsborough disaster. Photo: PRESS ASSOCIATION
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The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed, a jury has ruled today.

The jury of six woman and three men answered ‘yes’ by a majority verdict to the question that they were sure the Liverpool supporters who died at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final had been unlawfully killed.

Former chief superintendent David Duckenfield arrives at the Hillsborough Inquest in Warrington. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Former chief superintendent David Duckenfield arrives at the Hillsborough Inquest in Warrington. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

And they found there was ‘no behaviour’ on the part of supporters that ‘caused the dangerous situation’ at Leppings Lane turnstiles.

The verdicts means they were sure that match commander David Duckenfield’s breach of duty of care to the fans had caused the deaths and amounted to ‘gross negligence’.

Police planning errors ‘caused or contributed’ to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the Hillsborough disaster, the jury at the inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool fans has concluded.

Jurors sitting in Warrington, Cheshire, agreed the tragedy happened ‘as a result of crushing in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace, following the admission of a large number of supporters to the stadium through the exit gates’.

The Hillsborough disaster. Photo: PRESS ASSOCIATION

The Hillsborough disaster. Photo: PRESS ASSOCIATION

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And they answered yes to the question: “Was there any error or omission in police planning or preparation which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match?”

They also found there were features in the design and layout of Hillsborough which contributed to the disaster.

The jury also said there were ‘major omissions’ in police planning and found error in policing of situation and turnstiles - ‘slow and uncoordinated response’ to increasing crowds outside Leppings.

They found there were multiple errors by commanding officers.

The jury also found there were failures to amend safety certificate for stadium in relation to capacity on Leppings Lane and there were features in the design and layout of Hillsborough which contributed to the disaster.

They also found Sheffield Wednesday made errors in preparation for game and management of stadium and error or omissions by Sheffield Wednesday MAY have contributed to dangerous situation outside turnstiles.

Wednesday club officials ‘should have requested a delayed kick-off’ and South Yorkshire Police made errors in emergency response ‘which caused or contributed to loss of lives’.

Relatives were crying in court as the verdicts unfold.

Features of the design, construction and layout of the stadium considered to be dangerous or defective caused or contributed to the disaster, the jury decided.

Jurors also found the safety certification and oversight of the stadium also caused or contributed to the tragedy.

They reached the same conclusion in relation to Sheffield Wednesday’s management and/or preparation for the semi-final tie and the dangerous situation that developed at the Leppings Lane turnstiles and in the west stand.

However, the jury concluded that the club’s conduct on match day may only have caused or contributed to the same situation.

The club’s then consultant engineers, Eastwood & Partners, should also have done more to detect and advise on any unsafe or unsatisfactory features the stadium which caused or contributed to the disaster.

The jury were answering the 14 general questions they were asked, with others covering stadium safety, the emergency response to the disaster and whether the fans were unlawfully killed.

As families left the building they were met with applause from crowds who had gathered outside the court in support.

Many had arrived wearing Liverpool Football Club scarfs and holding posters and banners of loves one.

The victims’ families hugged each other and broke down in tears after emerging from the court.

One man shouted ‘Justice’ while two men held up a red scarf that also read ‘Justice’.

Others made emotional phone calls to loved ones. Two women jumped up and down overcome with emotion as they embraced.

Labour MP Andy Burnham, who has supported the families’ campaign, said: “This has been the greatest miscarriage of justice of our times.

“But, finally, it is over.”

Former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher tweeted: “Justice finally. #JFT96.”

John Aldridge, who was in the Liverpool at Hillsborough, tweeted: “Fantastic to see the reaction of the families outside the court! Very emotional as well.

“The truth is out AT LAST. Take note all the doubters!!”

The hearings have been ongoing for more than two years, with the jury having heard evidence from around 1,000 witnesses.

The fresh inquests began on March 31 2014, in a specially built courtroom in Warrington.

Dozens of relatives of the victims have attended each of the more than 300 days the court has sat at Bridgewater Place on the Cheshire town’s Birchwood Park business park.

At the start of the inquests, the coroner said none of the victims should be blamed for their deaths.

Emotional tributes to each of the 96 were then delivered by family members in the form of personal portraits.

The Hillsborough tragedy unfolded during Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final tie against Nottingham Forest as thousands of fans were crushed on Sheffield Wednesday’s Leppings Lane terrace.

Mr Duckenfield gave the order at 2.52pm to open exit Gate C in Leppings Lane, allowing around 2,000 fans to flood into the already packed central pens behind the goal.

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.