Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has visited the ongoing inquests into the Hillsborough tragedy today.
The politician went into the hearing to sit in the seats reserved for observers and families of the 96 Liverpool fans killed in Britain’s worst sporting disaster.
Mr Corbyn attended the hearing in Warrington as the Coroner Sir John Goldring continues summing up the evidence in the case, the longest-running jury inquest in British legal history, which began in March 2014.
He was accompanied by shadow home secretary Andy Burnham and local Liverpool MP Steve Rotheram.
Mr Burnham has been credited with helping the families to campaign for new inquests, quashing the verdicts of accidental death in the original inquests held in 1991.
He raised the families’ campaign for new inquests at Cabinet level with then prime minister Gordon Brown, leading to the setting up of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
The inquests have been sitting for almost two years, with the jury hearing evidence into the deaths of the 96 fans crushed to death on the Leppings Lane terrace of the ground as the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest got under way in Sheffield on April 15 1989.
The jury are expected to retire to consider their verdicts on March 2.
Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, welcomed Mr Corbyn’s visit.
She said: “I think it’s great people are taking an interest. He’s coming showing some support for the families. For the first time they are listening, at last they are listening to the people.”
During a morning break in proceedings, Mr Corbyn spoke with family members at the hearing in a private room outside the court.
He spent more than an hour at the hearing, shaking hands with and chatting to many of the families of the 96.
Afterwards outside court, he said: “I’ve come because I wanted to see what’s going on, briefly, but also particularly to meet the families of the 96 who obviously have been and continue to go through the most terrible trauma.
“I take my hat off to them for their steadfastness and their campaigning over many years. That’s what brings about justice.”
Asked whether his visit was a “political act” with the jury due to go out to begin considering verdicts soon, Mr Corbyn responded: “I’m taking no part, I’ve come to observe that’s all.
“I’ve come to observe, I’ve come to meet the families and I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
“A political act, no. It’s an act of interest, it’s an act of support for the families and recognition of the trauma they have been through for the dreadful events that happened in Hillsborough.”
Mr Corbyn said he had met some Hillsborough families before at Parliament and he was asked to come to the inquest and he agreed.
He added: “I think I should also say that members of Parliament for the area, Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, Derek Twigg, Maria Eagle and others have worked very hard to help bring about this process, and that is what also is very important, this process is a result of a lot of campaigning, a lot of sustained demands for justice by the people of Liverpool and the families of the 96 and I think we should always remember that.”