Tribute to the 96 held at St George’s Hall

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Vigil for Hillsborough at St George's Hall. Pic © Sam Davies / JMU Journalism

Vigil for Hillsborough at St George’s Hall. Pic © Sam Davies / JMU Journalism

The city remembered the 96 in a service at St George’s Hall this evening, as Liverpool reflected on the aftermath of the ‘unlawful killing’ verdict at the Hillsborough Inquests.

A huge crowd of 30,000 gathered outside Lime Street and St George’s Plateau for the event, with all applauding the families, who Mayor Joe Anderson congratulated for their “tremendous victory”.

The 90-minute vigil, featuring hymns, readings and speeches, was to commemorate the Hillsborough victims following yesterday’s historic events at the inquests.

It was a moment almost three decades in waiting, as justice for the 96 people who died in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster was finally served.

Though the long 27-year battle to reveal the truth – the real truth – has been won, yesterday’s ruling leaves another phase lying in wait.

The current South Yorkshire Police chief constable David Crompton has been suspended in the wake of the findings, and the families will now turn their attention to discovering whether other police commanders who were serving back in 1989 will face prosecution.

That determination will not be met until the settlement of two separate investigations – one by a dedicated police team and the other by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The expectation is that investigators will hand files to the Crown Prosecution Service in December, where evidence will be considered for up to six months before a decision on charges is made.

Vigil for Hillsborough at St George's Hall. Pic © Sam Davies / JMU Journalism

Vigil for Hillsborough at St George’s Hall. Pic © Sam Davies / JMU Journalism

Trevor Hicks, whose teenage daughters Sarah and Vicki Hicks died in the tragedy, stated he and the Hillsborough Family Support Group would continue to demand justice.

He said: “Obviously we hand over to the CPS and other people now, and we will be keeping an eye on them.”

Amongst the others who may face action is former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the 1989 match commander.

During the inquests, Duckenfield admitted his decision to open an exit gate lead to the deaths. This contradicted his initial statement after the disaster, when he claimed fans had forced the gate open.

Duckenfield’s admissions in March 2015 became a focal point of more than two years of hearings, with the inquest jury eventually finding him responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence.

Vigil for Hillsborough at St George's Hall. Pic © Sam Davies / JMU Journalism

Vigil for Hillsborough at St George’s Hall. Pic © Sam Davies / JMU Journalism

Other key findings included the unanimous conclusions that South Yorkshire Police, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, engineers Eastwood & Partners and Sheffield Wednesday’s mismanagement contributed, at least in part, to the 96 deaths.

The fans’ behaviour, however, was found to not have contributed to the tragedy.

This led to cheers from family members inside the Coroner’s Court in Warrington.

Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the disaster, said after the verdicts: “It wasn’t just about the 96 today, this was about all the families, the fans, the survivors—this was getting the clean sweep and clearing their name as well.

“All I can say now, I want the 96 to rest in peace, because they’ve suffered for these 27 years.

“Our city always gets brought down, but yet again the people of Liverpool fight a cause that was so unjust, so unfair, and we’ve done it, and we’ve won it.”

Vigil for Hillsborough at St George's Hall. Pic © Nathan Archer / JMU Journalism

Vigil for Hillsborough at St George’s Hall. Pic © Nathan Archer / JMU Journalism

There was worldwide support via social media for the jury’s verdicts, with the news also featuring on the front page of the International New York Times and all but two UK front pages.

Both PM David Cameron and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to the Hillsborough families during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Home Secretary Theresa May then made a statement on Hillsborough in the House of Commons, with Liverpool-born MP, Andy Burnham, offering an impassioned response as politicians united in a debate condemning the gross injustice of the past 27 years.

About Conor Allison, JMU Journalism