New inquests ordered into deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough disaster

Wednesday 19 December 2012 19.14
A crush at the Sheffield stadium claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans
A crush at the Sheffield stadium claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans

Britain’s High Court has quashed the original accidental death inquest verdicts returned after 96 Liverpool football fans died in the crush at Hillsborough in 1989.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and two other judges in London ordered fresh inquests following an application by the Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

Some of the families of victims, who campaigned to have the verdicts overturned, attended the hearing.

The decision came shortly after Home Secretary Theresa May said there would be a new police investigation into the disaster.

Former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart will lead the new inquiry, which will focus specifically on the deaths of the 96 fans.

Today's developments come after a damning report from the Hillsborough independent panel laid bare a cover-up that attempted to shift the blame for the tragedy on to its victims.

Ms 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."

The Hillsborough independent panel report led to a raft of apologies from the likes of Prime Minister David Cameron and former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie.

Mr MacKenzie was the editor of The Sun when it ran a front-page story blaming fans for the disaster.

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.

It also found the then chief constable of South Yorkshire, Peter Wright, and his officers, with the help of local Tory MP Irvine Patnick, sought to cover up the failing.

Police statements had been altered to remove or change unfavourable comments about policing of the match.