Hillsborough inquests: What you need to know

image copyrightHillsborough Inquests
image captionFresh inquests into the deaths of 96 football fans at Hillsborough began on 31 March 2014.

The jury at the Hillsborough inquests has found 96 football fans were unlawfully killed, after hearing two years of evidence.

Jurors found the then match commander, Ch Supt David Duckenfield, was "responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence" due to a breach of his duty of care.

What was the Hillsborough disaster?

On 15 April more than 24,000 Liverpool fans travelled to Sheffield for their club's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

Liverpool supporters were assigned the North and West stands of the Hillsborough stadium. In the period before kick-off, a large crowd of those fans built up outside the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end.

As the crowd gathered, an order was given to open an exit gate to relieve turnstile pressure. In the five minutes that gate C was open, about 2,000 Liverpool fans entered the stadium.

A "significant proportion" headed via a tunnel to the terraces behind the goal, entering "relatively full' central pens that were fenced on all sides. There was then a severe crush.

Who were the 96 victims?

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Ninety-six men, women and children died as a result of the crush. All except one were Liverpool supporters.

The youngest victim was 10-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley. The oldest was Gerard Baron, who was 67. Thirty-eight of the victims were aged 19 or under.

Why were the new inquests held?

At the original inquests, the then South Yorkshire coroner Dr Stefan Popper decided the hearing should only investigate events before a cut-off time of 3.15pm. He argued that it was unnecessary to look at events beyond this time.

On the evidence of pathologists, he said all those who died would have suffered irreversible brain damage by that time and were beyond saving.

That meant the hearing would not look into the emergency response to the disaster. This was a highly controversial decision strongly disputed by the families of the deceased.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe original inquests were quashed after a campaign by the Hillsborough families

In 2009, the government set up the Hillsborough Independent Panel to review documents relating to the disaster. In September 2012, the panel produced a report based on 450,000 pages of documents previously stored by the government, other public bodies, private companies and individuals.

A month later, the attorney general applied for the original inquests to be quashed. In December 2012, following a campaign by the bereaved families, the High Court ordered a fresh hearing.

What was heard at the inquests?

The inquests began on 31 March 2014 at a purpose-built courtroom in Warrington, Cheshire.

The jury of six women and three men began by listening to profiles of all those who died, read by - or on behalf of - their families.

They went on to hear evidence about the design of the stadium, police planning and preparation, the emergency response, as well as detailed medical evidence and the movements of the 96 fans who died.

The inquests heard claims from at least one medical expert that a number of victims might have been saved by a "sustained and earlier" intervention.

image copyrightReuters
image captionFormer Ch Supt David Duckenfield was match commander on the day

Who was involved in the hearings?

More than 500 witnesses were called and 4,000 pages of documents and hours of video evidence were shown.

The 1989 match commander David Duckenfield and South Yorkshire Police were among the 12 individuals and 12 organisations listed as interested parties, along with 95 of the 96 victims.

No living relatives could be traced for one of the victims, Martin Wild.

What did the jury consider?

There were 14 questions that the Hillsborough jury needed to answer, including whether the 96 victims of the disaster were unlawfully killed and whether opportunities were lost to save lives on the day of the disaster, 15 April 1989.

To consider that fans were unlawfully killed, the jury had to be sure match commander David Duckenfield was responsible for their manslaughter, the coroner Sir John Goldring said.

To answer yes to that question, the jury had to agree with four points:

  • Firstly, 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, they must be sure that the breach of his duty of care caused the deaths
  • Finally, the jury had to be sure that the breach which caused the deaths amounted to "gross negligence".

The jury also considered whether Mr Duckenfield, who has since left the police force, deliberately lied about the opening of Gate C and, if he did, whether it was as a result of panic or because he knew his actions beforehand were responsible for the crushing in the pens.

Sir John told the jury that the inquests were not a trial, and they could not find anybody guilty of a criminal offence.

The role of key organisations including South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield Wednesday FC and South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (SYMAS) were also considered by the jury, who also had to decide if the design of the stadium and the behaviour of fans were factors in the deaths.

How long did the inquests last?

The inquests were the longest in English legal history.

After sitting for 279 days, the coroner Sir John Goldring began summing up the evidence on Monday 25 January.

He did so for 26 days before sending the jury out to consider its verdict at 14:05 BST on 6 April.

What happens next?

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is looking at both organisations and individuals.

After the unlawful killing conclusion, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can consider a prosecution against individuals or corporate bodies, including match commander David Duckenfield.

Meanwhile, current South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton has said his force "unequivocally" accepts the verdict of unlawful killing and the wider findings.

He repeated his "unreserved apology" to the families and all those affected.

A criminal investigation into the disaster, Operation Resolve, is ongoing and being led by Assistant Commissioner Jon Stoddart.