Barristers at Garden Court Chambers have welcomed today’s conclusions at the Hillsborough inquests which have found that the 96 people who died were unlawfully killed. Garden Court Chambers represented 77 families at the inquests.
In answering 14 questions set by the coroner, Sir John Goldring, the nine-person jury, which had been deliberating since 6 April 2016, cleared Liverpool supporters of any blame for the disaster. They also concluded that there were errors and omissions in the emergency response and planning from South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service.
Seventeen barristers from Garden Court Chambers have been involved in the inquests since they opened in 2014, representing 77 families of those who died as a result of the events at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989.
The jury also found that Eastwood & Partners, Sheffield Wednesday’s consulting engineers, should have done more to detect and advise on any unsafe features of the stadium; that the safety certificate was never amended by the club to reflect changes to the Leppings Lane end of the stadium and; club officials should have requested a delay in the kick-off.
Garden Court Chambers was instructed by Marcia Willis-Stewart of Birnberg Peirce. Terry Munyard was instructed by Ruth Bundey at Harrison Bundey Solicitors.
Patrick Roche, one of the 17 barristers involved from Garden Court Chambers, said:
"This is a momentous end to the longest-running inquest in British legal history. In responding to the 14 questions set by the coroner, the jury have not only created legal history, they have delivered some long-overdue justice to the families of all those killed on that horrific day in April 1989.
"I pay tribute to all my legal colleagues involved and to the diligence of the jurors. Most of all, I pay tribute to the way in which the families have conducted themselves. The families hope that the ongoing criminal investigations will also bring justice for the 96."
Solicitors for the families of the victims, Elkan Abrahamson of Broudie Jackson Canter and Marcia Stewart of Birnberg Peirce & Partners said:
“It is now 27 years since the Hillsborough families found themselves thrown together by the appalling tragedy that led to the loss of their loved ones. At the outset, that (and support for Liverpool FC) was probably all they had in common.
The intervening years have brought much greater commonality: the shock and dismay at the way they were treated in the aftermath; anger at the cover up which started immediately following the disaster; frustration and disbelief at the deficiencies of both the legal and political processes which failed to deliver justice, and, above all, a constant and enduring tenacity and dedication to exposing the truth which has, despite all attempts to derail the process, stood firm over the decades.
The jury’s conclusions completely vindicate the families’ long fight for justice. It is therefore all the more shameful that, rather than focussing on the search for truth and despite having made public apologies, the approach to the inquests taken by South Yorkshire police and the Yorkshire ambulance service was to fight tooth and nail to avoid adverse findings by the jury; this turned the inquests into an adversarial battle that probably doubled the length of time it might otherwise have taken.
Notwithstanding the difficulties along the way, the conclusion of the renewed inquests does bring both significant progress on the journey to expose the truth and, we hope, some degree of comfort and sense of closure to the bereaved. There is, however, still a long road to travel; the recent investigations have already taken three years and we therefore now urge the authorities to conduct rigorous and speedy investigations which will lead to criminal and disciplinary proceedings and to the attribution of final and full accountability.
We are humbled and inspired by the commitment of the families with whom we have had the privilege to work. Each have their own stories, but the common thread that runs throughout is their unremitting, unwavering dedication to achieving justice for the 96.”
The full findings can be viewed here.
More information is available in the INQUEST press release.
Ninety-six men, women and children lost their lives as a result of the events at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989. Following an application by the Attorney-General, in December 2012, the High Court quashed the verdicts in the original inquests and ordered fresh inquests. The fresh inquests started on 31 March 2014.