Disaster jury set for Hillsborough site visit

Liverpool fans trying to escape severe overcrowding during the FA Cup semi-final tragedy
Liverpool fans trying to escape severe overcrowding during the FA Cup semi-final tragedy
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The jury in the fresh inquests into the Hillsborough tragedy is set to make a site visit to the stadium – but should not read the ‘deeply moving’ tributes on the memorial to the disaster, a coroner has heard.

Christina Lambert QC, counsel to the inquests, said there was ‘broad agreement’ on the parts of the stadium and local areas which should be viewed by the jury in the early stages of the inquests scheduled to start next month.

“Our view is that it is reasonable for the jury to view the current police box even though its location is not precisely as it was in 1989,” she told a pre-inquest hearing in central London.

“We also consider that it would appropriate for the jury to see the memorial but not to read the tributes.

“The reason that we make this final observation is because the jury must remain objective and must be seen to be objective in their approach to the issues.

“Having visited the memorial myself there is no doubt that the tributes that are made there are deeply moving.”

A 3D computer generated model of the stadium is being prepared as an aid to the inquests as well as a 2D computer presentation depicting ‘key individuals’ and movements of the 96 victims.

Ms Lambert told the coroner Lord Justice Goldring that the fresh inquest must conclude within a “reasonable time frame”.

“Our view is that Christmas or thereabouts is about as long as we can hope to keep the jury away from their normal day-to-day existence,” she said.

But Patrick Roche, counsel to 74 of the 96 victims’ families, said that although they had no wish to prolong the hearing any more than necessary, they rejected a limit of Christmas.

“We don’t accept that Christmas is necessarily the limit, we don’t accept at all that it is the limitation of the jury’s patience or their ability to remember the evidence,” he said.

“Our families have no desire to prolong the inquest any more than is necessary.”

The inquests are due to begin in Warrington, Cheshire, on March 31 - nearly 25 years on from the disaster at Sheffield’s Hillsborough stadium.

The tragedy - Britain’s worst sporting disaster - happened on April 15 1989 during Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest as thousands of fans were crushed on the ground’s Lepping Lane terrace.

Verdicts of accidental death from the original Hillsborough inquest in March 1991 were quashed in December 2012.

The action was taken after the Hillsborough Independent Panel studied thousands of documents and reported that there had been a huge cover up of what happened at Hillsborough and its aftermath.

Pete Wetherby QC, representing a group of victims’ families, told the inquest of concerns raised after “close forensic analysis” by two experts of police hand held camera footage taken on the day of the disaster.

He said the findings by the experts for one tape was there were a “number of edits which are questionable.”

“The findings of the experts is that from the edits of the video that there are a number of edits which are questionable, it may be innocent but it may not be,” he told the hearing.

“The fact that these edits are of a different nature points away from an innocent explanation but there is one edit in particular which the experts agree could not have been done on the camera itself.”

He added: “With the second tape there is limited support for the proposition - for a similar proposition - but there is not the same level of scientific evidence related to that second tape.”

He said there was “no issue” with a further two tapes of later footage taken after the disaster.

John Beggs QC, representing retired superintendents David Duckenfield, Roger Greenwood and Roger Marshall, opposed a jury visit to the control box at the stadium.

“We endorse the concept of a jury visit but we oppose taking them to the current control box because it is different in just about every conceivable way from the box that was there on April 15 1989.”

He added: “They will be looking at a view that none of my clients could possibly have had.”