Historic ruling for bereaved Hillsborough families
Soccer:Bereaved families of victims of the Hillsborough disaster saw their long battle to uncover the truth of what happened take a historic step forward at the High Court in London today. 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.
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 prolonged.”
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.”
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 years.”
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 account.”
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. 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 unsound.
“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.”