Hillsborough jury to start considering verdicts in February

The jury in the new Hillsborough inquests are expected to start considering their verdicts in February - almost two years after they first begun, it has been announced.

Saturday, 12th December 2015, 5:49 am
Lord Justice John Goldring

The hearing has become the longest-running inquest in British legal history after starting in March 2014, when it was scheduled to last for between six and nine months.

Coroner Sir John Goldring told the jury this week that the final phase - the medical and pathological evidence for each of the 96 Liverpool supporters who died at the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough in 1989 - was likely to have finished by the Christmas break and there was not expected to be more evidence after that.

He said he was due to start his summing up of the case on January 25 and expected it to take about three weeks.

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Sir John said: “After it’s over, you will retire to consider a series of written questions which will be carefully set out for you.”

The court will not sit for the week beginning February 15 due to a half term break, meaning that it is likely the jury will go out to consider their decision around February 22.

But the coroner added the dates are not ‘set in stone’.

He told the jury: “I can’t obviously forecast how long it will take you to reach your decisions.

“I can’t therefore say by when the inquests will be over.”

Seven women and four men were initially selected to sit on the jury, although one man was later discharged due to ‘wholly exceptional medical reasons’.

The inquests have been taking place in Birchwood Park, Warrington.

Friday’s hearing was cancelled for the day due to juror illness after being due to hear medical and pathology evidence about four of the victims, including 22-year-old Tony Bland, who died after spending four years in a coma after the disaster.

The jury had also been due to hear about the deaths of three teenage supporters - David Mather, 19, Keith McGrath, 17, and Paul Carlile, 19 - on Friday.

The court is due to sit for legal argument on Monday and the jury is expected to sit again on Tuesday, when the medical and pathology evidence will continue.

The new inquests are being heard after the verdicts in the original inquests were quashed by the High Court and a new hearing ordered in December 2012.

That decision followed new evidence relating to the events of and since the disaster being highlighted in a report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel in September 2012.

A new criminal inquiry into the events of Hillsborough was also ordered in December 2012, with this being led by the former Chief Constable of Durham Jon Stoddart.

That inquiry is running parallel to an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into allegations of police misconduct arising from the aftermath of the disaster.