Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hillsborough Verdicts Quashed

The original Hillsborough inquest verdicts were quashed in the High Court on Wednesday, with a new investigation led by Jon Stoddart announced.

Following an application by the Attorney General Dominic Grieve, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and two other judges ordered fresh inquests, quashing the original accidental death inquest verdicts after 96 Liverpool supporters died 23 years ago.

A new police inquiry, led by former Durham Chief Constable Stoddart, will focus specifically on the 96 deaths of the Liverpool fans in April 1989, working closely with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into police conduct in the aftermath of the disaster.

Grieve made his request to the High Court after a new report established 41 of those who died might have been saved, and new medical evidence has been used as a basis for the new inquests application.

The Home Secretary Theresa May announced the new investigation will finally earn justice for the fans who were crushed at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium during the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.

May said: "I am determined to see a swift and thorough response to the findings of the Hillsborough Panel to deliver justice for the 96 football fans who died and the families who have fought so hard on their behalf."

Mr. Stoddart will be able to recruit investigators and staff to his team, but he will not be allowed to employ officers or former officers with any previous connection to the Hillsborough disaster, or from the West Midlands, South Yorkshire or Merseyside police forces.

He said: "I am aware of the great significance and personal responsibility which comes with leading this criminal investigation.

"My first priority is to meet with as many of the families as possible and to establish a working open relationship with them throughout the investigation.

"I have held a number of meetings already and have been struck by the families' humility and steadfast determination to see justice delivered for their loved ones.

"My role is to ensure that we determine exactly what happened in the lead-up to and on the day of the disaster and establish where any culpability lies."

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said there were "good grounds" for the application made by Mr. Grieve and described what happened in 1989 as "catastrophic".

Referring to the families, he said there had been a "profound, almost palpable belief that justice has not been done and that it cannot be done without and until the full truth is revealed".

He said: "We must record our admiration and respect for their determined search for the truth about the circumstances of the disaster and why and how it had occurred, which - despite disappointments and setbacks - has continued for nearly quarter of a century."

After Lord Judge announced the decision of the court, families in the packed courtroom greeted it with a loud round of applause.

More than 40 families had made the journey to London for the hearing, while others watched by videolink from Liverpool.

When giving the ruling, Lord Judge expressed regret that the process the families had gone through over the years since the disaster had been "so unbearingly dispiriting and prolonged".

Responding to the decision to quash the original Hillsborough inquest verdicts and the announcement that a fresh police investigation is to be held into the disaster, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: "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.

"It is the only right and proper decision that the High Court could make in the wake of the overwhelming and compelling evidence uncovered by the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

"We must all keep up the pressure that has driven the momentum over the last few months to make sure that the families get the justice they deserve.

"I also welcome the new police investigation, which we all hope will result in those that played a role in causing the disaster and the monumental cover-up are brought to account."

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