A giant step to justice: Fresh police probe into Hillsborough Disaster launched as original verdict quashed
15:44 GMT, 19 December 2012
A new police investigation into the Hillsborough Disaster was announced by the Home Secretary today, as bereaved families of victims saw their long battle to uncover the truth of what happened take a historic step forward at the High Court.
The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and two other judges in London quashed the original accidental death verdicts returned after 96 Liverpool football fans died in the crush 23 years ago – and ordered a fresh inquest.
More than 40 families, who had travelled to London for the hearing, burst into applause when the judges granted an application brought by the Government's top law officer, Attorney General Dominic Grieve.
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Delight: Trevor Hicks holds up a newspaper on the steps of the High Court in London earlier today
Joyous: Shadow Health Secretary and MP for Leigh, Andy Burnham (centre), Margaret Aspinall (right) and Jenni Hicks (left) show their delight after the hearing
Lord Judge, announcing that there were 'good grounds' for the application, described what happened in 1989 as 'catastrophic'.
Referring to the families, many of
whom were weeping in court, 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.'
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
The Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling
said: 'The victims' families and survivors of the Hillsborough tragedy
have seen their cause take another important step forward today.
'I will now do everything I can to help to get new inquests established quickly.
'I have received a request from the
Doncaster and Bradford coroners for a judge to be appointed to conduct
these inquests and I am today asking the Lord Chief Justice to make a
recommendation to me on suitable candidates as soon as possible.'
Trevor Hicks, chair of Hillsborough Family Support Group, spoke of his delight at the decision to quash the inquest verdicts.
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of
Justice, he said: 'Justice is on its way. Everything we've said has been
proven to be correct.'
Bitter-sweet: Aspinall lost her son James in the disaster, and had to be comforted outside court
KENNY DELIGHTED WITH DOUBLE RESULT FOR VICTIMS' FAMILIES
Former Liverpool player and manager Kenny Dalglish tweeted his delight after Lord Judge ruled that the original inquest into the deaths at Hillsborough were quashed.
Dalglish was also pleased to see that home secretary Theresa May had ordered a new police probe in response to the Hillsborough Panel's report.
He said: 'Two fantastic results today for the Hillsborough families. Your support has been unbelievable.'
Michelle Carlile, 44, clutching a
photograph of her brother Paul, 19, who died at Hillsborough, said of
today's decision: 'It is bitter-sweet. We have known the truth for 23
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.
'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
Lord Judge said each of those who died in the tragedy was a 'helpless victim of this terrible event'.
He ruled that it was in the interests of justice to hold a fresh inquest.
He said the 'interests of justice must be served' – 'however distressing the truth will be brought to light'.
The main plank of the Attorney General's application related to crucial new medical evidence.
Giant step: The families celebrated what they saw as a victory outside the High Court
Address: Hicks and Aspinall spoke after Lord Judge had quashed the original ruling
Welcoming the decision, Mr Grieve
said: 'Thanks to the work of the Hillsborough Independent Panel it was
made clear that the medical evidence underpinning the original inquests,
and relied upon in subsequent reviews and inquiries, was fundamentally
'In addition, the statements
concerning the actions of the police and emergency services, and the
original evidence concerning the alcohol consumption of the deceased,
give rise to questions that fresh inquests should address.
'I therefore believe the interests of justice require the 96 inquests to be quashed and for new ones to be held.
'Today, the Court has agreed with me.
These processes inevitably take time, but I share the hope that the new
inquests are held speedily as possible and I know that efforts are
being made to expedite them.
'The families' long and painful quest
for the truth reached a breakthrough with the publication of the
Hillsborough Independent Panel report.
'I hope and trust that new inquests
will provide a better understanding of how each of their loved ones
died, and bring closer the justice for which they have fought so hard.'
Around a dozen Hillsborough victims'
relatives and friends watched a live link to the events at the Royal
Courts of Justice from Courtroom 27 in the Liverpool Civic and Family
Speaking outside the court after the
hearing, the family of Hillsborough victim Gary Jones, 18, said today
was a major step forward.
Devastation: Donna Miller, holds a picture of the brother Paul Carlile (right), as Anne Williams, who lost her son Kevin, arrives at court earlier in the day
Mr Jones's sister, Cathy, said she was 'delighted' by the words of the Lord Chief Justice.
She said: 'It's a step towards
justice and the truth. The last 23 years has been very difficult – every
day having to fight. Nobody should have to justify why somebody has
died and have to fight for their honour.'
Marion Brady, whose son Paul, 21, was
killed, said it was “absolutely wonderful” that a new police
investigation had been instigated, and added: 'It's been very hard. We
have had knockback after knockback. I just hope I live to see it all
come to fruition.'
Ian Daley, 48, who was at
Hillsborough and lost his friends Graham Wright, 17, and Gordon Horn,
20, said: 'The truth is out now. It's only what the families deserve.
They've had to wait for a long time.'
Stephen Kelly lost his brother Michael, 38, in the disaster, describing him as '38 going on 15'.
He said: 'I'm absolutely over the moon. It's a brilliant result today, we've justified our actions for all these years.
'We've really worked hard for this, and Hillsborough wasn't an accident, it was a disaster waiting to happen.
'But it's been proven today and the inquest has been quashed. I'm really pleased with that.
'It's clearly been stressful at the least, but we got here, and everybody who supported us all these years – this is for them.'
Search for justice: Theresa May has announced a new police probe into the Hillsborough disaster
Swift: Home Secretary Theresa May wants a 'thorough response' to the findings of the Hillsborough Panel
Former Durham Chief Constable Jon
Stoddart, meanwhile, will lead the new police inquiry, which will focus
specifically on the deaths of Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semi-final in
Barry Devonside, 65, lost his son Christopher, 18, at Hillsborough.
Today, he welcomed the legal ruling and called for criminal prosecutions if there is evidence against police officers.
He said: 'One thing that doesn't change is that our son is not with us. This is a legal issue and history has been made today.
'If there is sufficient evidence to
bring charges against those who were in the wrong then they have to be
held accountable in law.
'I am not on a witch-hunt and I don't
want people locked up for the sake of it, but if there is evidence they
should be before a court.
'There was serious medical evidence to show at least 41 people could have survived.
'When Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice
Muamba collapsed on the pitch he was clinically dead for 78 minutes but
he survived because of the immediate help he got.
Solidarity: Hicks lost two daughters at Hillsborough and was in London today
'If they had got the lines of ambulances on to the pitch at Hillsborough, so many people might not have been lost.
'And we might not have lost our son.'
Anne Williams, 60, whose 15-year-old
son Kevin died at Hillsborough, has been one of the loudest voices
throughout the campaigners' efforts for justice.
Suffering from cancer, she attended today's proceedings in a wheelchair.
She applauded Mr Grieve as 'a man of his word'.
'He did what he promised,' she said.
'I am glad we never gave up. It has
been hard, but we wouldn't have been here today. I'd like a corporate
manslaughter verdict in the inquest, it's the least for what they have
'It's a long process. God willing, I will be here, it has been a long wait to see justice.
'I am so glad I could be here today to hear it for myself.'
Face in the crowd: MP for Leigh Andy Burnham arrived at court to support the cause
Referring to the cover-up that
shifted blame away from the authorities and on to the victims, she said:
'I can't forgive them the extremes they went to. Why didn't they just
give us the truth
'The way they twisted and turned
things, like the lies I was told about Kevin being dead by 3.15pm when
he died at 4pm… This hasn't sunk in yet.
'I keep thinking somebody is going to step in and ruin it.'
Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram
said: 'This verdict marks the beginning of the end of the Hillsborough
disaster. At long last, the families have achieved their ultimate goal,
which is to change the verdict on the death certificates.
'The families have been an inspiration to Britain as they have fought their 23-year dignified campaign.
'Now that the fresh inquests have
been ordered, it would be wrong for the families to have to pay for a
second inquest. They should not have to bear the financial penalty of
the Establishment's mistakes in 1989.
'The Chancellor should also take this
opportunity to waive the VAT on the Justice Collective Hillsborough
tribute single so that every single penny raised can support the
families in the legal costs in the fight for justice.'
Support: A Liverpool fan campaigns for justice outside the High Court in London
Former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, meanwhile, will lead the new police inquiry, which will focus specifically on the deaths of Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989.
Home Secretary Theresa 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 prior connection to the Hillsborough disaster.
He is also unable to recruit any officers or former officers who worked in the West Midlands, South Yorkshire or Merseyside police forces.
Mr Stoddart will also work closely with the previously announced Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into police conduct in the aftermath of the disaster.
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.'
Horrific: Former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and former Nottingham Forest boss Nottingham Forest were escorted from the grisly scenes at Hillsborough in 1989
Justice for the 96: Floral Tributes outside Hillsborough Football Ground in Sheffield
Carnage: 96 people died after the crush at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989
VIDEO Outside court. Inquest verdict quashed for 96 Hillsborough fans
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