The inquests into the Hillsborough disaster are now unlikely to be finished until early 2016 - almost a year later than planned, it has been revealed.
The new inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground on April 15, 1989 started in March and had been expected to last for a year. But the jury has now been told there is now a ‘real risk’ the hearings will not be completed until early 2016.
Coroner Sir John Goldring told the jury: “We are very conscious of the time you are devoting to these inquests and how difficult it must be for each of you in your personal lives. In the inquests we are covering a huge amount of ground, I am conscious that we are taking longer than we originally anticipated.”
He said all evidence should be heard by November 6, with his summing up beginning on November 16 and potentially lasting up to 10 days before the jury retires.
His comments came after the inquests heard a former PC was ‘bullied’ by a senior officer into altering his evidence. Michael Walpole was called to meet Chief Inspector Alan Foster, who said he needed to sign an amended statement which had several parts deleted, including an observation that ‘there seemed to be no organisation or radio messages from 3.15pm’.
He said: “I felt that I was under severe pressure to comply with the demands. I have known officers over the years have been hounded out of the police, which you could describe as constructive dismissal. So that was in the back of my mind when I was thinking: I’m going to have to sign this.”
He agreed to sign the amended statement, but his original report was sent by accident to a West Midlands Police inquiry into the police handling of Hillsborough.