Hillsborough inquests quashed, unlawful killing a possibility

Original verdicts overturned, new inquest called as fresh police probe announced

LAST UPDATED AT 15:38 ON Wed 19 Dec 2012

NEW inquests will be held into the deaths of 96 football fans in the Hillsborough disaster after the original verdicts were quashed at the High Court today following an application from the Attorney General, while Home Secretary Theresa May has announced a new police investigation into the 1989 disaster.

The Liverpool Echo described the decision to overturn the inquest verdicts as "momentous news" and it was hailed as an important step on the road to justice for the families of the victims.

"The landmark verdict clears the way for a new inquest into the 96 deaths next year, re-examining the roles of the police, Sheffield council, Sheffield Wednesday football club and the other emergency services and leading to the possibility of new verdicts of unlawful killing," reported The Guardian.

"The original verdict of accidental death, delivered by a jury in March 2001 following the longest inquest in British legal history, has been a running sore for the families of those killed in the disaster, who felt the inquest was wholly inadequate," the paper added.

The application to overturn the verdicts was made after the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel in September. Attorney General Dominic Grieve described the HIP report as a "remarkable" document.

New medical evidence in the report stated that of the 96 who died, 58 "definitely" or "probably" could have survived past the cut-off time of 3.15pm on 15 April 1989. In the original inquest no evidence relating to what happened after that time was considered.

There was a round of applause in the packed courtroom today as Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge delivered his ruling. He said that those who died had been "helpless victims".

Trevor Hicks, chair of Hillsborough Family Support Group, who had travelled to London with around 40 of the families, said: "Justice is on its way. Everything we've said has been proven to be correct."

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said after the decision: "This is a watershed moment on the road to justice for the families of the 96, and I share their overwhelming relief that, after 23 very painful years, the inquest verdicts have been quashed."

Liverpudlian pop singer Pete Wylie Tweeted: "One small step for a judge... a giant leap for the 96. Onward to peace at last!"

Also on Wednesday the Home Secretary announced a fresh police inquiry into the events at Sheffield’s Hillsborough Stadium where the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest had just started when the tragedy began to unfold.

It will be led by former Durham chief constable Jon Stoddart and will look into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool fans. It will work closely with the Independent Police Complaints Commission which is investigating police conduct in the aftermath of the disaster, after the HIP report uncovered evidence of a huge cover-up by the authorities.

Both developments were hailed by former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, who was in charge of the club when the tragedy happened. He said: "Two fantastic results today for the Hillsborough families. Your support has been unbelievable."

The Hillsborough campaigners were given another boost when David Cameron hinted that the government would waive VAT on the charity single He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother by the Justice Collective, which is being tipped for Christmas No 1. The single is raising money for the families’ legal costs. · 

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