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Justice Collective's Hillsborough charity single He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother wins chart battle beating Simon Cowell-backed X Factor winner James Arthur

Proceeds from ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ will pay legal costs for relatives campaigning for justice

The Hillsborough tribute single pipped X Factor winner James Arthur to become the 2012 Christmas No 1 tonight in the tightest contest for years.

The Justice Collective’s version of The Hollies classic, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, sold 269,000 copies, pushing it ahead of its Simon Cowell-backed rival .

The triumph marks the end of a historic year for relatives of the victims of the 1989 disaster.

Last week the High Court quashed the original accidental death verdicts for the 96 Livepool fans who died during the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, and ordered a fresh inquest, after damning report into the disaster laid bare a police cover-up. “The interests of justice must be served, however distressing the truth will be brought to light,” said Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge at the hearing.

Last Monday the Hillsborough charity single trailed by 3,000 copies, but sales soared after the High Court hearing on Wednesday. By last night the Hillsborough single had outsold Arthur’s release “Impossible” by 45,000 copies.

All proceeds from the charity single will go towards funding the legal costs of the families of the Hillsborough victims. The track features singing performances from stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Take That singer Robbie Williams, and the Spice Girl Mel C.

Williams, who has another track in the charts, asked his fans to buy the Hillsborough single instead of his.

It is the second year in a row that a charity single has taken the Christmas No 1 slot, after the Military Wives Choir topped the charts in 2011.

Steve Rotherham, the Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, said: “We have done in nine weeks what it normally takes nine months or more to achieve, working with a phenomenally dedicated team, all of whom have worked for free and displayed total professionalism throughout.”

The Chancellor George Osborne has said he will donate VAT receipts on sales of the singles to the Hillsborough Justice fund, to ensure “that as much money as possible goes towards helping these families”.

The Government has also announced it will fund legal representation at the new inquest for the families of those who died.

The move followed the publication in September of a damning report laying bare a police cover-up which attempted to shift the blame for the tragedy on to its victims.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel, chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, made a catalogue of disturbing claims,  including the allegation that 164 police statements were altered in the wake of the tragedy, 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about policing of the match and ensuing disaster.

Martin Talbot, the Official Charts Company managing director, said momentum had swung towards the charity single towards the end of last week. He added: “This is the closest Number 1 battle we can remember.”

Other contenders, including Psy’s international hit Gangnam Style, were ruled out of the running over the weekend as the battle became a two-horse race. Emeli Sande’s Our Version Of Events topped the album chart, and with sales of 1.32 million is the biggest-selling album of the year.