A jury has determined that the 96 football fans who died at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster were killed unlawfully.
The verdict represents a complete vindication for the families of the victims who have fought for 27 years against South Yorkshire police claims that drunken, unruly supporters caused the disaster, as well as against the 1991 verdict of accidental death.
Jurors at the hearing in Warrington concluded that police error caused or contributed to a dangerous situation at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.
Liverpool fans were exonerated with the jury determining that they did not contribute to the dangerous situation at the turnstiles.
Last Wednesday the jury indicated that unanimous decisions had been agreed on every question apart from No6 which asked: “Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed?”
The corner said yesterday he could accept a decision of 7-2 or 8-1 on the issue of whether the fans had been unlawfully killed.
In order to reach a verdict of unlawful killing, jurors had to be convinced that chief superintendent David Duckenfield, who was in charge of policing that day, owed a duty of care to those who died in the disaster, and that he was in breach of that duty of care.
The jury also had to be convinced that his breach of duty caused the deaths, and that it amounted to “gross negligence”.
It was Duckenfield who gave the fateful order at 2.52pm to open exit Gate C in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium, allowing around 2,000 fans to pour into the already packed central pens behind one of the goals. It was this decision that ultimately led to the crush that resulted in the 96 deaths.
When the conclusion of the unlawful killing was revealed, families applauded and were seen hugging each other in the public gallery.
Leading campaigners Margaret Aspinall and Trevor Hicks were seen hugging each other in tears.
A statement on behalf of the families said the jury’s conclusions “completely vindicate” the long fight for justice.
It added it has brought “significant progress on the journey… and sense of closure to the bereaved.”
A statement on behalf of all of the families said the jury’s verdicts “completely vindicate” the long fight for justice.
It added it has brought “significant progress on the journey… and sense of closure to the bereaved”.
Prime Minister David Cameron called it a “landmark day” and said the inquests “provide long overdue justice”.
He paid tribute to the “extraordinary courage of Hillsborough campaigners in their long search for the truth”.
Current South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton said the force “got the policing… catastrophically wrong”.
He said his force “unequivocally” accepts the conclusions of the jury.
“As I have said before, I want to apologise unreservedly to the families and all those affected.”
At a later press conference, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign called for Mr Crompton’s “immediate resignation”.
Stephen Wright – whose brother Graham died in the disaster – said: “The five South Yorkshire Police legal teams simply pursued the denials of the past, blaming mythical late, drunken, ticketless fans for the deaths of our loved ones.
“Mr Crompton has not only let the police force down but also the general public. He has also let down rank and file police officers, many of whom did their best on the day of the disaster and were themselves traumatised.”
The jury also concluded:
Police errors caused a dangerous situation at the turnstiles
Failures by commanding officers caused a crush on the terraces
There were mistakes in the police control box over the order to open the Leppings Lane end gates
Defects at the stadium contributed the disaster
There was an error in the safety certification of the Hillsborough stadium
Police delayed declaring a major incident
The emergency response including the ambulance service was also delayed