FRESH inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans at Hillsborough have been ordered after the original accidental death verdicts were quashed by the High Court.
The ruling was described as a “watershed moment” in the battle for justice for those that died in the crush at the Sheffield stadium and is further vindication for the families who have fought for nearly a quarter of a century for the truth about the disaster.
Describing what had happened in 1989 as “catastrophic”, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said each of those who died was a “helpless victim of this terrible event” and pledged that “however distressing, the truth will be brought to light”.
More than 40 families in the packed London courtroom greeted the decision with a loud round of applause, while others watched by video link from Liverpool.
Trevor Hicks, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “Justice is on its way.
“Everything we’ve said has been proven to be correct.”
The ruling followed an application by Attorney General Dominic Grieve to quash the verdicts after a damning report into the disaster cast them in grave doubt.
Welcoming the decision, Mr Grieve said: “Thanks to the work of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, it was made clear the medical evidence underpinning the original inquests, and relied upon in subsequent reviews and inquiries, was fundamentally unsound.
“In addition, the statements concerning the actions of the police and emergency services, and the original evidence concerning the alcohol consumption of the deceased, give rise to questions fresh inquests should address.”
He added: “I hope and trust that new inquests will provide a better understanding of how each of their loved ones died, and bring closer the justice for which they have fought so hard.”
In the original inquest in 1990, Dr Stefan Popper imposed a controversial 3.15pm “cut-off point” after which he ruled all the victims would have been fatally injured. Evidence about the emergency services’ response after this time was not heard.
But new medical evidence commissioned by Mr Grieve revealed 58 victims “definitely or probably” had the capacity to survive beyond that time.
Anne Williams, 60, whose 15-year-old son Kevin died at Hillsborough, applauded the Attorney General as “a man of his word”.
“I’d like a corporate manslaughter verdict in the inquest, it’s the least for what they have done,” she said.
The cancer sufferer added: “It’s a long process. God willing, I will be here, it has been a long wait to see justice.”
Referring to the cover-up that shifted the blame onto the victims, she said: “I can’t forgive them the extremes they went to. Why didn’t they just give us the truth?
“The way they twisted and turned things, like the lies I was told about Kevin being dead by 3.15pm when he died at 4pm.”
The ruling was announced yesterday as it was also confirmed a new police investigation would be held into the disaster.
Andy Burnham, Labour MP for the North West constituency of Leigh, who has been instrumental in championing the Hillsborough families’ plight, paid tribute to their dedication to seeking justice.
He said: “For them to get on a coach in Liverpool at 5am and come down to London and be told what they should have been told 23 years ago says so much about their determination.”
Mr Burnham added: “This case has got to be a moment when people say that should never, ever happen again.”
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said he would do everything he could to get new inquests established quickly.
He said he would be seeking recommendations from the Lord Chief Justice for a judge to conduct them.
The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: “This is a watershed moment on the road to justice for the families of the 96.”