Ruling on Hillsborough football crush met with praise, police apology

A ruling that the 96 people who died in the 1989 crush at Britain's Hillsborough football stadium were "unlawfully killed" was met with praise, celebration and apologies Tuesday, following a long campaign by relatives of the victims.

Several dozen relatives hugged each other outside the court and sang You'll Never Walk Alone, the Liverpool football club anthem, after the jury said "errors and omissions" by the police had contributed to the disaster in the northern city of Sheffield. 

"Justice for the 96. Justice for all," the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, one of the main campaign groups founded by the families, said on Twitter and Facebook. "Thanks to everyone who supported the HJC."

Prime Minister David Cameron praised campaigners for their "extraordinary courage" on Twitter.

Cameron said it was a "landmark day as the Hillsborough inquest provides long overdue justice for the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the disaster."

"I would like to pay tribute to the extraordinary courage of Hillsborough campaigners in their long search for the truth," he wrote on Twitter.

South Yorkshire Police, which covers Sheffield, apologized to the families and admitted it "got the policing catastrophically wrong."

The jury agreed that the deaths during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were "due to 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."

It endorsed statements saying there were "errors or omissions" in police planning, policing on the day of the match, and the action of commanding officers, which had all "caused or contributed" to the events that led to the deaths.

"The jury feels there were major omissions in 1989 operational order," it said.

The police response to the growing crowd of Liverpool supporters outside the Leppings Lane end was "slow and uncoordinated," it said, adding that road closures and the lack of contingency planning had worsened the situation.

The jurors were satisfied, by a majority of seven to two, that "those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed."

They agreed that Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, whose home ground is Hillsborough, and stadium managers and contractors were also at fault over the facilities, safety and match planning at the stadium.

The verdict, which follows a two-year coroner's inquest into Britain's biggest sporting disaster, said the behaviour of fans did not contribute to the deaths.

Earlier verdicts of accidental death were quashed in 2012 after a long campaign by victims' relatives.

For many years, officers from South Yorkshire Police and some British media outlets had claimed drunkenness among fans had contributed to the disaster.

"The force failed the victims and failed their families," Chief Constable David Crompton said in a video statement. "We will now take time to carefully reflect on the implications of today's findings."

Two criminal investigations linked to the coroner's inquest are ongoing, prosecutors and a police watchdog said.

"The conclusion of the inquests is another milestone and a day when my thoughts are with the families and friends of those who died as a result of the disaster," said Rachel Cerfontyne, deputy head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

"We have made significant progress on the investigation and we will ... pursue our remaining lines of enquiry as quickly and as thoroughly as possible," Cerfontyne said.

The IPCC expected to finish "by far the biggest and most complex investigation" in its history by early next year, she said.

Last update: Tue, 26/04/2016 - 17:52
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