New inquests for Hillsborough victims

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Attorney General Dominic Grieve announces he will ask for new inquests on the deaths at Hillsborough © BBC News

Hillsborough families learnt today that there will be fresh inquests into the deaths of their loved ones.

The Attorney General Dominic Grieve will write to the High Court to ask for the original Hillsborough inquest verdicts of accidental death to be quashed, paving the way for 96 fresh inquests.

The announcement in the House of Commons at lunchtime follows a 400-page report and the release of 450,000 documents relating to the disaster in September, which exonerated Liverpool fans of any wrong-doing at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989, and found that many police statements were amended following the disaster.

Documents disclosed by the Hillsborough Independent Panel have revealed that up to 58 people could have survived with adequate medical assistance on the day.

The initial inquests into the disaster returned the verdict of accidental death – but families, survivors and Liverpool fans have campaigned for 23 years for fresh inquests.

Mr Grieve said that although he had not yet finished examining evidence, he felt he had seen enough to come to a decision.

He told the House of Commons: “My consideration of the evidence on this matter is far from complete but I do not want to cause the families affected by this disaster any greater anxiety.

Hillsborough Family Support Group campaigners Jenni Hicks and Margaret Aspinall at Anfield © BBC Sport

“I have decided to take the exceptional step of announcing on the basis of what I have already seen I am persuaded that an application to the courts for a fresh inquest must be made.

“96 died because of what occurred at Hillsborough that day, and 96 inquests were held. I believe that as all of those deaths arose from a common chain of events, it would be better for me to apply for all 96 to be considered.”

However, Mr Grieve said he will need time to bring proceedings in order for fresh inquests to take place.

He said: “I wish to make it clear that having announced my decision I will still need the time in order to prepare the application so that the strongest case can be made to the court. I have given this work priority and I will continue to do so.

“It’s very difficult for me to give a precise timetable, I will move as quickly as I can.”

Mr Grieve couldn’t be sure that the inquests will be held in Liverpool, as the families have requested: “So far as the issue of the venue, that isn’t really a matter for me. Should the application I make to the court be successful it will then be a matter for the court and the coroner to decide where the inquests take place. It is not my decision.

“I am satisfied that there will be sufficient resources to take this forward, so far as the venue for the actual hearing, that isn’t a matter for me. Should the application I make to the court be successful, it will then be a matter for the court and the coroner to decide where the inquests take place.”

The announcement follows the news that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will launch investigations into officers who were involved at Hillsborough that day and the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) investigations into officers who were involved at Hillsborough that day.

Mr Grieve admitted that the timing of the inquest may be affected by their investigations, but will apply for fresh inquests as quickly as possible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4m–pJF2YM

He said: “Where there to be any criminal proceedings it could impact on when an inquest could take place. I don’t think, however, it will have any impact on the timing of my making my application to the court to order inquests to take place if the court so minded.”

Shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry said: “We all in this House hope that justice for the Hillsborough families is finally in sight.”

Families of Hillsborough victims and campaign groups are due to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee today.

Steve Rotheram, MP for Liverpool Walton, the constituency of both of the city’s football clubs, said: “For the first time in over two decades, all the evidence can now be reviewed into the disaster and potentially a new verdict recorded on the death certificates of the deceased.

“At long last, the full horror of Hillsborough will be on the public record alongside the names of the people and the organisations that are accountable for what happened.

“With the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel last month, the IPCC launching their investigation last week, and now the Attorney General’s announcement today, the momentum is well and truly behind the fight for justice.“

About Ian Bolland, JMU Journalism