Jury Concludes Hillsborough Inquests With Verdict Of Unlawful Killing By Natasha Holcroft-Emmess 26th April 2016

Jury Concludes Hillsborough Inquests With Verdict Of Unlawful Killing
~ Natasha Holcroft-Emmess, RightsInfo, 26th April 2016

An inquest jury has concluded that football fans killed in a crush at Hillsborough Stadium were unlawfully killed. The Human Rights Act played a key part in ensuring that the investigation int the 96 deaths was independent and effective. The human right to life ensures that disasters such as this are properly investigated.

The Hillsborough Disaster was a human crush that caused the deaths of 96 people and injured 766 others, at a football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield on 15 April 1989.

An inquest is a judicial inquiry to determine causes of death. Inquests are not criminal proceedings and an inquest jury cannot find anyone guilty of a criminal offence.

A former judge of the Court of Appeal, Sir John Goldring was appointed as Assistant Coroner for South Yorkshire (East) and West Yorkshire (West) to conduct the Hillsborough inquests. A jury was appointed to answer 14 questions about the cause of the disaster.

To conclude that fans were unlawfully killed, coroner Sir John Goldring told the jury that it had to be sure match commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield was responsible for their manslaughter. To answer “yes” to that question, the jury had to agree with four points:

1. Ch Supt Duckenfield owed a duty of care to the 96
2. He was in breach of that duty of care
3. The breach of his duty of care caused the deaths and
4. The breach which caused the deaths amounted to “gross negligence”.

The question to the jury in relation to unlawful killing (question 6) was worded: “Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed? Yes or no.” The jury answered “Yes”. The jury also ruled, in its answer to question 7, that the Liverpool fans’ behaviour did not contribute to the disaster.

The questions and the jury’s answers are set out in full below:

Do you agree with the following statement which is intended to summarise the basic facts of the disaster: “On 15 April, 1989, 96 people died in the disaster at Hillsborough stadium as a result of crushing in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace, following the admission of a large number of supporters to the stadium through exit gates. Yes.
Was there any error or omission in the police planning and preparation for the semi-final match on 15 April, 1989 which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match? Yes.

Was there any error or omission in policing on the day of the match which caused or contributed to a dangerous situation developing at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? Yes.

Was there any error or omission by commanding officers which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace? Yes.

When the order was given to open the exit gates at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium, was there any error or omission by the commanding officers in the control box which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace? Yes.

Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed? Yes.

Was there any behaviour on the part of football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? No.

Were there any features of the design, construction and layout of the stadium which you consider were dangerous or defective and which caused or contributed to the disaster? Yes.

Was there any error or omission in the safety certification and oversight of Hillsborough stadium that caused or contributed to the disaster? Yes.

Was there any error or omission by Sheffield Wednesday FC (and its staff) in the management of the stadium and/or preparation for the semi-final match on 15 April, 1989 which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match? Yes.

Was there any error or omission by Sheffield Wednesday FC (and its staff) on 15 April, 1989 which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match? Yes.

12. Should Eastwood & Partners [the club’s consultant engineers] have done more to detect and advise on any unsafe or unsatisfactory features of Hillsborough stadium which caused or contributed to the disaster? Yes.

After the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, was there any error or omission by the police which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster? Yes.
After the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, was there any error or omission by Symas [the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service] which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster? Yes.

The right to life is perhaps the most important human right. It is protected by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which takes effect in UK law through the Human Rights Act. It means that deaths which take place where people are meant to be in care of the sate must be properly investigated.

The inquest was an investigation into police failures, with police being representatives of the state. The jury found that errors or omissions of the police “caused or contributed to’’ the loss of life in the Hillsborough Disaster.

Read our explainer on the right to life and why it matters here.

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