Hillsborough victims a step closer to getting new inquests
PUBLISHED October 16, 2012
Dominic Grieve told the House of Commons he was taking the "exceptional" step of announcing he would apply for new inquests before his deliberations were complete in order to ease the "anxiety" of families of the 96 fans killed at Hillsborough.
The announcement comes after an independent report into the 1989 disaster last month found that the original inquests were based on misleading evidence and erroneous medical assumptions.
These included a key finding by the coroner that nothing could have been done to save fans after a cut of period of 3.15pm on the day of the disaster. In fact, the report found, as many as 41 fans were showing signs of life after that point.
The report also found that the police and other authorities had sought to shift the blame for the disaster, and engaged in a widespread cover up including altering police witness statements and smearing fans by suggesting they had been drunk.
Following publication of the report into the crush at Sheffield Wednesday's ground during an FA semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, David Cameron apologised to the families on the dead on behalf of the country, in a moving statement which left some MPs in tears.
Once it receives Mr Grieve's application, it will be for the High Court to decide whether fresh inquests should be held. Judges are likely to give their consent to the move, given the Attorney General's recommendation.
Mr Grieve said he would consult with the Hillsborough families to see if they wanted separate inquests for their loved ones.
He told MPs: "My consideration of the evidence is far from complete but, given the anxiety further delay may cause the families affected by the Hillsborough disaster, I have decided to take an exceptional course and state at this stage that, on the basis of what I have already seen, I have determined that I must make an application to the court.
"In doing so, I should make it clear that further work will need to be done before any application can be made.
"In particular, there was not one inquest but 96. My current view is that I will apply to have every one of those 96 inquests quashed.
"I believe that these deaths, arising as they do from a common chain of events, should all be considered afresh.
"However, before reaching any final view on the scope of the application, I want to give the families affected the opportunity to make any representations in respect of the family member or members they lost. I will therefore be in contact with each family seeking views."
The Director of Public Prosecutions is currently considering whether to bring criminal proceedings against a number of police officers suspected of engaging in a cover-up by supplying false statements to the coroner and the original inquiry into the disaster.
Mr Grieve said that if prosecutions were brought, it could delay the holding of new inquests, but that it would not affect the ability of the High Court to order them.
He could not say whether the Court would agree to the families' request that new inquests be held in Liverpool, so they did not have to return to Sheffield as they did for the original hearings.
Steve Rotheram, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, said the move: "marks one of the biggest steps forward in the fight for justice for the families in 23 years".
He went on: "The undeniable fact is that the original inquest was unsound and this application, if successful, will mean that evidence will be able to be heard after the 3.15pm cut off imposed by the original Coroner in the 1989 inquests.
"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.
"The families' heartache has been well documented but what is less well known is that some families have refused to pick up the death certificates of their loved ones who died on that day."