By William Mailes
The jury of the Hillsborough inquest have determined that the 96 football fans that died in the disaster in 1989 were unlawfully killed.
Families of the victims, as well as Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, were all present as the verdict was delivered at around 11am, which confirmed that police failures led to the deaths in the tragedy.
The jury decided the match commander Ch. Supt David Duckenfield’s actions amounted to “gross negligence”, due to a breach of his duty of care to fans.
Following the verdicts, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed it would now begin considering criminal charges over Hillsborough.
For over two years, a jury of three men and six women has been hearing evidence about how and why those 96 people died. They were sent out to deliberate on April 6th.
Their conclusions were delivered at a specially-built courtroom in Warrington, Cheshire. There were lanterns lit for all 96 victims outside St Georges Hall in Liverpool.
The jurors, who spent nine days considering a 14 section questionnaire, reached unanimous conclusions on 13 of the questions.
The remaining section – for which they were told they could return a majority decision – asked whether the 96 were unlawfully killed, in which they answered ‘Yes’.
The jury concluded there were errors and omissions in policing on the day that contributed to the dangerous situation developing in the pens.
And the jury believed there were errors or omissions by commanding officers which caused the crush.
Commanding officers should have ordered closing of central tunnel.
The inquest also found that the design and layout of the crush barriers in pens 3 and 4 were not fully compliant with the Green Guide. Furthermore, there were not enough turnstiles for a capacity crowd, and signage to the side pens was inadequate.
Jurors found there were defects at the stadium which caused the disaster, and there was also an error in the safety certification of the Hillsborough stadium.
Finally, it concluded that the police delayed declaring a major incident; therefore the emergency response including the ambulance service was also delayed.
The jury also found that the Liverpool FC supporters behaviour did not contribute to the dangerous situation in the disaster, sparking cheers of “Yes!” and “Halleluia”.
The families hugged each other and punching the air in the public gallery, some thanked the jurors, and a spontaneous rendition of Liverpool anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rang out from the steps of the court.
To answer a question with ‘yes’, the jurors must have been “sure” that match commander Chief Supt David Duckenfield was “responsible for the manslaughter by gross negligence” of those who were fatally injured at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield on 15 April 1989.
The coroner laid out four steps jurors needed to consider when answering question six in regards to Ch. Supt Duckenfield. Only if they are 100% sure of each, can they conclude the 96 were unlawfully killed.
The steps included that Ch. Supt David Duckenfield owed a duty of care to the 96 who died.
Secondly, that he was in breach of that duty of care.
Thirdly, that the breach of Mr Duckenfield’s duty of care caused the deaths.
Finally, the jury must be sure the breach which caused the deaths amounted to “gross negligence”.
The case and inquest was the longest in British history, and the families of the victims can finally now begin to feel like justice has been done for their loved ones they lost on that fateful day.