Hillsborough group seek new inquest verdicts

 

Lawyers acting on behalf of families of those killed in the Hillsborough disaster will tomorrow write to the Attorney General demanding that new inquests be held in Liverpool.

The Hillsborough Families Support Group (HFSG) met at Anfield today to discuss the next step in its campaign for justice for the 96 victims of the 1989 disaster.

High-profile lawyers for the campaign, Michael Mansfield QC and Lord Falconer, appeared via an internet videolink.

Following the three-and-a-half hour meeting, Trevor Hicks and Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the HFSG, who lost her son James, 18, in the tragedy, gave a statement to the media in which they expressed their desire for the inquest verdicts to be overturned and new inquests to be held in Liverpool.

Mr Hicks, from Keighley, West Yorkshire, who lost daughters Vicky, 15, and Sarah, 19, in the disaster, said: "This goes beyond Hillsborough. What was exposed on Wednesday was a disgrace to the nation, not just the families...This goes across society and it's important for society at large not to let this rest."

The statement on behalf of the HFSG, reads: "The findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel have finally vindicated the families in their 23-year struggle to establish the truth.

"However, after truth must come justice. We have spoken today to our lawyers and taken initial advice.

"As the families have always believed and insisted, it was the actions and inaction of those in authority that caused the deaths at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989.

"The fans did not contribute to the tragedy. Any blame previously laid at their door has been shown to be part of a despicable conspiracy by those in authority to tarnish the reputations of the dead, the survivors of the disaster and the people of Liverpool. "This conspiracy has been revealed for what it is; a bid to avoid accountability.

"Those responsible can avoid accountability no longer."

The HFSG said it had instructed its lawyers to send letters out to "relevant parties", including the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions, tomorrow to "ensure that the machinery of the justice system is put into motion and the families receive a fair hearing."

The HFSG says there are now three avenues which it will "rigorously follow" in the search for justice: new inquests to be held in Liverpool and not Sheffield; a "full and immediate" investigation into criminal prosecutions to be brought against those responsible; and, where appropriate, families will apply for civil proceedings to be re-opened where they may have been dismissed or settled "on a false basis."

The statement also said the families strongly condemn the comments made this week by Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettison, and describes the "monumental" scale of the wrongdoing and cover-up that will leave an "indelible stain on the reputations of those authorities in whom the public implicitly placed their trust."

Yesterday a complaint against the Chief Constable which emerged following the Hillsborough disclosures was referred to the police watchdog.

West Yorkshire Police Authority's Special Committee agreed to record a complaint against Sir Norman and immediately referred it to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for investigation.

In a statement Sir Norman said he was "pleased" to have the matter investigated.

Sir Norman was an off-duty South Yorkshire Police inspector when he attended the game and was involved in an internal inquiry held by the force in its aftermath.

The damning Hillsborough Independent Panel report revealed a cover-up took place to shift the blame on to the victims and that 41 of the 96 lives lost at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium could have been saved.

The panel found that 164 police statements were altered, 116 of them to remove or alter "unfavourable" comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.

Reviews have been ordered by police authorities in West Yorkshire, into the actions of Sir Norman, and West Midlands, which also conducted an investigation into the disaster.

South Yorkshire Police, which still employs 195 officers who were on duty at the ground on the day of the tragedy, said the force would refer itself to the IPCC.

Chief constable David Crompton said South Yorkshire Police would consider asking the IPCC whether those involved in the Hillsborough tragedy should face manslaughter investigations.

PA

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