Bereaved families of victims of the Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield have seen their long battle take a historic step forward in uncovering the truth of what happened.
The Lord Chief Justice Lord Igor Judge and two other judges in London quashed the original accidental death verdicts returned after 96 Liverpool football fans died in the crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground 23 years ago – and ordered fresh hearings.
More than 40 families who had travelled to London for the hearing burst into applause when the judges granted an application brought by the Government’s top law officer, Attorney General Dominic Grieve.
Lord Judge, announcing there were ‘good grounds’ for the application, described what happened on Saturday, April 15, 1989, as ‘catastrophic’.
The move came as Home Secretary Theresa May announced a new police investigation into what happened that day.
In addition to the new investigation, a liaison board will be established to bring together all organisations working on behalf of the Hillsborough families.
Mrs May said: “I am determined to see a swift and thorough response to the findings of the Hillsborough Panel to deliver justice for the 96 football fans who died and the families who have fought so hard on their behalf.”
In court, Lord Judge said there had been a ‘profound, almost palpable belief justice has not been done and it cannot be done without and until the full truth is revealed’.
He said: “We must record our admiration and respect for their determined search for the truth about the circumstances of the disaster and why and how it had occurred, which – despite disappointments and setbacks – has continued for nearly a quarter of a century.”
When giving the ruling, Lord Judge expressed regret the process the families had gone through over the years since the disaster had been ‘so unbearingly dispiriting and prolonged’.
The Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling said: “The victims’ families and survivors of the tragedy have seen their cause take another important step forward today.
“I have received a request from the Doncaster and Bradford coroners for a judge to be appointed to conduct these inquests and I am asking the Lord Chief Justice to make a recommendation to me on suitable candidates.”
Trevor Hicks, Hillsborough Family Support Group chairman, speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice, said: “Justice is on its way. Everything we’ve said has been proven to be correct.”
Michelle Carlile, 44, clutching a photo of her brother Paul, 19, who died at Hillsborough, said of the decision: “It’s bitter-sweet. We’ve known the truth for 23 years.”