Hillsborough Inquest Verdict
After an inquest lasting over 2 years, the longest in UK history, the jury in the Hillsborough inquests has now delivered its verdict.
The jury was required to answer 14 questions, which are summarised, together with the answers, as follows. In some instances, the jury provided further comments, which are also summarised below.
- The jury agreed that 96 people died as a result of the disaster, 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.
- The jury said there were errors in police planning and preparation for the match which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation which developed on the day of the match. – The jury felt that there were major omissions in the 1989 operational order including specific instructions for managing the crowds outside the turnstiles, how the pens were to be filled and monitored and who would be responsible for the monitoring of the pens.
- The jury also said there were errors in policing on the day of the match which caused or contributed to a dangerous situation developing at the Leppings Lane turnstiles – The jury said that the police response to the increasing crowds at Leppings Lane was slow and uncoordinated. The road closure and sweep of fans exacerbated the situation. There were no filter cordons outside and no contingency plans for the sudden arrival of fans. Attempts to close the perimeter gates were made too late.
- The jury held that there were errors by commanding officers which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace – The jury stated that commanding officers should have ordered the closure of the central tunnel before the exit gate was opened. Commanding officers should have requested the number of fans still to enter the stadium after 2.30. They also failed to recognise that the pens were at capacity before the exit gate was opened. They also failed to order the closure of the tunnel as the gate was opened.
- It then held that when the order was given to open the exit gates, there were errors by commanding officers in the control box which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace. – The jury added that commanding officers did not inform officers on the concourse prior to opening the exit gate, failed to consider where the incoming fans would go, or to order the closure of the central tunnel prior to opening the exit gate.
- In a key answer, the jury held by a majority of 7 to 2 that those who died in the disaster had been unlawfully killed according to the legal test. This related to the errors and omissions of the match commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield. – YES
- The jury held that the behaviour of the supporters did not cause or contribute to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles.
- The jury held that features of the design, construction and layout of the stadium were dangerous or defective and caused or contributed to the disaster. – The jury stated that the design and layout of the crush barriers were not fully compliant with the Green Guide. The removal of one barrier and the partial removal of another would have exacerbated the waterfall effect of pressure of spectators towards the front of the pens. The lack of dedicated turnstiles for individual pens meant that capacities could not be monitored. There were too few turnstiles for the capacity crowd and signage was inadequate.
- The jury held that there were errors or omissions in the safety certification of the stadium that caused or contributed to the disaster – The jury stated that the safety certificate was never amended to reflect the changes to the stadium and therefore capacity figures were never updated. The capacity figures for the terrace were incorrectly calculated when the certificate was first issued. The certificate had not been re-issued since 1986.
- The jury held that there were errors or omissions by Sheffield Wednesday WC in the management of the stadium and/or preparation for the match which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match – The club did not approve the plans for dedicated turnstiles for each pen, or agree contingency plans with the police. There was inadequate signage and misleading information on the tickets
- It also held that there were errors by the club on the day of the match which may have caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed at the turnstiles and on the terrace – The jury said that club officials were aware of the huge number of spectators outside at 2.40 p.m. and should have requested a delayed kick off.
- The club’s engineer, Eastwood & Partners should, it was held, have done more to detect and advise on unsafe and unsatisfactory features of the stadium which caused or contributed to the disaster – The jury said that Eastwoods did not make their own calculations when they became consultants for the club. Therefore, the initial capacity figures and all subsequent calculations were incorrect. Eastwoods failed to recalculate capacity figures each time changes were made to the terraces. Eastwoods failed to update the safety certificate after 1986. Eastwoods also failed to recognise that the removal of barrier 144 and the partial removal of barrier 136 could result in a dangerous situation in the pens.
- The jury held that after the crush in the terrace had begun to develop, there were further errors by the police which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster – The jury added that the police delayed calling a major incident, so the appropriate emergency responses were delayed. There was a lack of co-ordination, communication, command and control which delayed or prevented appropriate responses.
- Finally, the jury held that after the crush had begun to develop, there were errors by the ambulance service which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster – The jury added that ambulance officers at the scene failed to ascertain the nature of the problem at the Leppings Lane end, and failed to recognise and call a major incident which led to delays in the emergency response.
Philip Kolvin QC, leading James Maxwell Scott QC, represented Sheffield City Council at the Inquests, instructed by Steve Eccleston and Scott Fitzjohn of Sheffield City Council.
Philip Kolvin QC specialises in licensing and regulatory law. For more information on Philip and his practice contact his Senior Clerk Ben Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.