Fresh hopes for prosecutions over Hillsborough Disaster as police launch new investigation and High Court quashes accidental death inquest verdicts on 96 fans
Theresa May launches police investigation into 1989 disasterFormer Durham Chief Constable Jon Stobbart to lead investigationMove comes as High Court quashes original accidental death verdictsFamilies greeted court's decision with a loud round of applauseInvestigation could lead to prosecutions being brought
00:46 GMT, 20 December 2012
A raft of manslaughter charges could be laid following the decision to reopen the criminal investigation into the Hillsborough disaster, it emerged last night.
The new police probe was announced yesterday by Home Secretary Theresa May as the High Court quashed the original inquest verdicts of accidental death and ordered new inquests.
Former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart will lead the investigation, which will look at the possibility of charging agencies other than the police over the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.
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Relief: Families of the 96 fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster outside the High Court in London today, where the original inquest verdicts into the deaths were overturned
Investigation: Theresa May announced a fresh police investigation into the Hillsborough tragedy, in which 96 football fans died while attending an FA Cup semi-final
These could include the Football
Association, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and Sheffield City
Council. Ambulance services are also likely to face an investigation.
The police probe will work alongside
an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission which
could bring charges against police officers.
It follows the publication in
September of an independent report, which found South Yorkshire Police
lied about the disaster and then covered up the truth.
The supporters died in a
crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium on April 15,
where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest.
A raft of failings were identified in the report, conducted by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, showing that authorities attempted to shift the blame on to the victims, many of whom could have been saved.
It also ultimately led to the
resignation of West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, who
was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time.
The panel’s report found there were
clear operational failures in response to the disaster and up to 41 fans
could potentially have survived.
The report also triggered a raft of apologies from the likes of Prime Minister
David Cameron and former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie.
United: Around 40 family members travelled to London to hear Attorney General explaining why the inquest verdicts should be overuled
Relief: MP Andy Burnham, left, hugs Margaret Aspinall as they celebrate with other families on the steps of the court today
Mr MacKenzie was the editor of The Sun when it ran a front page story blaming fans for the disaster.
Home Secretary Theresa May today announced that former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart will lead a new inquiry.
She 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.'
Stobbart will be prevented from recruiting anybody to his team with a
prior connection to Hillsborough, or any officers who worked in the West
midlands, Merseyside or South Yorkshire police forces.
His investigation will also work closely with the IPCC's report into police conduct in the aftermath of the disaster.
Mr Stobbart spoke of the 'great significance and personal responsibility' attached to the investigation.
He added: '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.
Reports: Attorney General Dominic Grieve, left, brought an application to the High Court seeking to have the original inquest verdicts into the 96 fans' deaths overturned, while Theresa May, right, announced a new police investigation
'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.'
Jenni Hicks, who lost her teenage daughters Sarah and Victoria at Hillsborough, welcomed the investigation, saying: 'Accountability has to come now'.
She added: 'After the truth we had in September it has to be followed up with accountability, and I think today is the first step of that, which is brilliant.'
The announcement of the investigation was made before Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and two other judges in London ordered fresh inquests following Mr Greive's application.
Family members of the victims have long
campaigned to have the verdicts overturned and many turned up at the
Royal Courts of Justice today to hear the verdict.
The families were joined by six MPs in court, while other relatives watched via videolink from Liverpool.
After Lord Judge announced the decision to the court, families in the packed courtroom greeted it with a loud round of applause.
Lord Judge expressed regret that the process the families had gone through over the years had been 'so unbearingly dispiriting and prolonged'.
He described each of those who died in the tragedy as a 'helpless victim of this terrible event' and ruled that it was in the interests of justice to hold a fresh inquest.
Lord Judge said that the 'interests of justice must be served' no matter how 'distressing the truth will be brought to light'.
The Attorney General told the court that the Hillsborough Panel’s report was a 'remarkable' document.
The report was the product of a review of more than 450,000 pages of documentation from 84 organisations and individuals, in addition to audio-visual material.
Horrifying: Fans attending the match try to clamber to safety in a higher stand
No way out: Fans on the pitch of Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium in 1989
Mr Grieve said he carefully studied the findings in the weeks following its publication with a view to 'whether it was right' to exercise his powers under Section 13 of the Coroners Act.
He announced to Parliament his intention to make an application 'for the inquests of those who died as a consequence of the Hillsborough disaster to be quashed and new inquests ordered' in October.
He said: 'Soon after my announcement to Parliament, I commissioned further expert analysis of the new medical evidence which forms the central plank of this application.'
Mr Grieve told the judges: 'The panel’s access to all of the relevant records and expert analysis of the post-mortem evidence confirmed that the notion of a single, unvarying and rapid pattern of death in all cases was unsustainable.
'Some of those who died did so after a significant period of unconsciousness during which they might have been able to be resuscitated, or conversely might have succumbed to a new event such as inappropriate positioning.
'Consequently, the response of the emergency services was not investigated in any detail by the inquests.'
He said that measures taken following the disaster had 'severely limited' examination and that there were 'profound concerns' over how original inquests had been handled.
The panel had also presented new evidence 'that casts significant doubt on the weight placed at the inquests on alcohol levels detected in the deceased'.
Trevor Hicks, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said he is encouraging all sections of the investigation to work together.
'We've said all along that we wanted joined-up writing, if you like. We want them all to work together. There's a common cause and that's justice for the families and how we get that,' he said.
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 described the leagl decision as a 'watershed moment'.
He said: '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
Mary Corrigan, mother of Keith McGrath, said: 'This is the first Christmas we might be able to smile.
'Now they might get some peace up there, they have been looking down on us and guiding us in this fight.'
Mrs Corrigan added: 'And my son. The truth is out. We want unlawful killing, we want justice.'
Andy Burnham, Labour MP for the North West constituency of Leigh, has been instrumental in championing the Hillsborough victims' plight along with Maria Eagle, Labour MP for Liverpool Garston and Halewood.
The pair applauded the Hillsborough families for their enduring determination and strength of character and said nothing they achieve in the future would equal today.
Visibly moved and hugged by victims' relatives outside, Mr Burnham said: 'Nothing I will ever do, the deep sense of fulfilment we both have got from this moment, nothing we ever do in politics will mean more to us because it's where the personal and political come together.
'I was at the other semi-final that day, all my friends were at Hillsborough. I was 19 on the day and nothing had a bigger impact on me growing up. It's a momentous day.'
Miss Eagle said: “'This is why I came into politics. This is historical, it is history.'
VIDEO: High Court quashes Hillsborough accidental death inquest verdicts on 96 fans
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