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Hillsborough inquests: Coroner makes opening statement

Fresh inquests into the deaths of 96 football fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster will "consider the experiences of each", the coroner has told jurors.

Making an opening statement, Lord Justice Goldring said the tragedy was "the worst ever disaster at a British sports stadium".

The disaster unfolded on 15 April 1989 during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

The hearing could last a year.

At the coroner's court in Warrington, Lord Justice Goldring said: "The disaster is seared into the memories of the very many people affected by it, most notably of course the families of the 96 people who died."

He told the jury panel of seven women and four men that the findings in the original inquests were quashed in December 2012.

"A new inquiry was needed, we are conducting the new or fresh inquiry.

"In doing so, we are not concerned with whether what was decided at the previous inquiries was right or wrong."

'Pressure in pens'
Outlining the events of the day, Lord Justice Goldring said: "Around the time of the kick-off, a terrible crush developed in two pens, within the... terrace at the west end of the stadium - the Leppings Lane end.

"That's where the Liverpool fans were standing."

"The pressure in the pens built up. Many of those in the pens suffered terrible crushing injuries."

He said that witnesses' memories "will inevitably have faded" in almost 25 years since the disaster.

Explaining the role of the jury, the coroner said: "As part of your task, you will, I anticipate, have to consider the underlying circumstances which contributed to the cause of these deaths, whether opportunities were lost which might have prevented the deaths or saved lives."

Earlier, the inquest listened for six minutes while the names of the 96 victims were read out by Christina Lambert QC, counsel to the inquests.

Verdicts of accidental death from the original Hillsborough inquest in March 1991 were quashed in December 2012, after the Hillsborough Independent Panel delivered its final report on the disaster earlier that year.

The coroner told the jury that a new inquest was ordered following a "campaign by bereaved families".

Over the course of the hearing, jurors are expected to hear evidence on themes including stadium safety, emergency planning, crowd management and the response of the emergency services.

The inquests are being held in a purpose-built courtroom, the biggest in England and Wales, in an office building in Birchwood Park, in Warrington.


Hillsborough Disaster inquests: 'Should Duckenfield have been in charge?', coroner asks newly sworn-in jury

The jury in the new Hillsborough disaster inquests were told they might be asked to consider if it was a "sensible decision" to appoint Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield as match commander of the 1989 game.

In his opening of the inquests coroner Lord Justice Goldring also told the jury the capacity of the Leppings Lane End of the Sheffield stadium, where the fatal crush happened, was "substantially too high".

He said Chief Supt Duckenfield had never commanded a match at the Hillsborough stadium before.

He said: "He certainly did not gave the wealth of experience of his immediate predecessor Chief Superintendent Mole."

The court heard Chief Supt Duckenfield had been promoted on March 27 1989, just weeks before the FA Cup semi final, and it was decided immediately he should take over from Chief Supt Mole as match commander.

Lord Justice Goldring told the jury: "Whether that was a sensible decision may be something for you to have to consider."

The court heard after the 1988 semi-final, also between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest, fans reported pressure and crushing within the pens.

But, the coroner said, there were no reports of serious injuries and senior officials within the police, the club and the Football Association regarded the match as a success - using it as a model for the 1989 game.

He said police drew up detailed plans for the supporters arriving at the match on April 15 1989 to ensure fans of the two teams were kept apart - in response to "concerns about hooliganism".

He said: "It may be said by some that was a reasonable concern given the extent of serious soccer hooliganism at the time.

"It may be said by others that police planning was too focused on problems of disorder and insufficiently focused on issues of crowd safety."

He also told the jury they would hear evidence that crush barriers did not meet with standards in stadium safety guide the Green Guide.

He said: "In 1986 one barrier,  barrier 144, was partly removed at the suggestion of South Yorkshire Police.

"Evidence will be heard that their heights were not all in accordance with the Green Guide and neither was their spacing.

"You will hear evidence of the effect removing part of barrier 144 had on forces generated elsewhere in the pens."

Hillsborough families 'distressed and angry to this day' says coroner

The coroner in the new Hillsborough inquests told the jury relatives "remain distressed and angry to this day" about the way they were treated after the disaster.

Lord Justice Goldring summarised the case to the newly sworn in jury in his opening to the case today.

He told the jury the previous coroner Dr Stefan Popper had ordered the bodies of the victims were kept in the Sheffield Wednesday gymnasium rather than moved to hospital mortuaries.

The identification process began at 9.30pm and a boys club was turned into a reception centre for families.

LJ Goldring said most found the experience "dreadful".

He said: "Many of the bereaved remain distressed and angry to this day about the way in which they and the bodies of their loved ones were treated on that evening."

The court heard Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield had given the order to open the exit gates of the stadium before the fatal crush on April 15 1989.

But he later told the chief executive of the Football Association Graham Kelly the gate had been forced open by fans.

Mr Kelly repeated the information in a radio interview and it was picked up by other media outlets.

LJ Goldring said: "There is no question of Gate C having been forced at 2.52pm, when the main group of fans came in.

"As I have said, Chief Superintendent Duckenfield ordered that it be opened.

"This early account resulted in some seriously inaccurate reporting of events.

"You will want to consider why Chief Superintendent Duckenfield said what he did."

The jury was also told the first call from police to ambulance control, shortly after 3.06pm,  requested just a "few ambulances" after reporting "pushing and shoving".

The request was quickly changed to a "fleet of ambulances".

The first description of the event as a "major incident" was not until 3.21pm when an ambulance officer at the scene contacted control.

Lord Justice Goldring said: "Still the major incident procedures oft he emergency services, including the police, were not fully enacted."

The coroner told the jury that among the victims were a father and son, three pairs of brothers, a pair of sisters and friends who had gone to watch the football together.


Police officer in charge at Hillsborough was inexperienced, coroner tells inquest
Lord Justice Goldring uses opening address to set out facts as to how 96 people died at football match

The South Yorkshire police officer in charge of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough football ground, at which 96 Liverpool supporters died, had never commanded a match there before, the inquest jury has been told.

Ch Supt David Duckenfield was promoted less than three weeks earlier to take operational command of the match, replacing Ch Supt Brian Mole, an experienced Hillsborough match commander.

After the match was stopped at 3.06pm with people already dying in the terrible crush on the central pens of Hillsborough's Leppings Lane terrace, an off-duty assistant chief constable, Walter Jackson, went to ask Duckenfield what was happening.

"Duckenfield said that he could not explain," the coroner, Lord Justice Goldring, told the jury.

Christina Lambert QC, for the coroner, had opened proceedings at the converted courtroom in a Warrington business park by reading out the names of each person who died in the crush at Hillsborough. In alphabetical order, from John Anderson, who was 62 when he died, to Graham Wright, who was 17, the 96 names took Lambert more than six minutes to read. About 300 relatives of those men, women and children sat listening in complete silence.

In his opening address to the inquest, Goldring set out some basic facts as to how the 96 men, women and children died. The jury heard that at 3.15pm on the day of the tragedy, Duckenfield told Graham Kelly, the chief executive of the Football Association, which commissioned the semi-final at Hillsborough, that Liverpool fans had forced a gate open to get into the match, when in fact he, Duckenfield, had ordered it to be opened to relieve a crush that had built up outside the ground.

"You will want to consider why Ch Supt Duckenfield said what he did," the coroner told the jury. As people staggered on to the pitch and dead bodies and injured people began to be pulled out of the pens, the police did not recognise the scale of the unfolding disaster for some time, Goldring explained.

The South Yorkshire metropolitan ambulance service (since reorganised into the Yorkshire ambulance service) did not implement the system of triage, under which, when a major incident is declared, control is taken and priority given to those most in need of treatment.

Even after 3.21pm, when Paul Eason, a station officer at Hillsborough, radioed the ambulance control centre to say he wanted to declare a major incident, "Still," the coroner said, "the major incident procedures of the emergency services (including the police) were not fully enacted."

Goldring explained that Sheffield Wednesday's ground was in breach of the official Home Office Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, known as the Green Guide. The capacity officially designated as safe for the Leppings Lane terrace, to which Liverpool's supporters were allocated, was substantially too high, Goldring said. He explained that the jury will hear evidence as to whether 10,100 spectators, the capacity allowed, was ever the appropriate figure and whether it should have been retained despite changes to the standing area, particularly its division by metal fences into pens.

This began to be done after the 1981 semi-final, in which 38 Tottenham Hotspur supporters were injured in a crush on the Leppings Lane terrace. The safety certificate the club required for its ground was not amended with a new capacity figure to take account of the changes, Goldring said.

More significantly, the coroner explained, although 10,100 was set as the overall total for the Leppings Lane terracing, there was no means of counting how many supporters were in each individual pen.

From the police control box overlooking the Leppings Lane terrace, which Duckenfield commanded, the only ways to tell if the pens were full were by looking down or making use of the CCTV system and forming an impression of how crowded [the central] pens 3 and 4 seemed to be.

The crush barriers on the Leppings Lane terrace, designed to prevent too much force building up within a standing crowd, did not conform to the Green Guide, Goldring said. The barriers were not all as high, or spaced properly, as designated in the official guidance.

A particular barrier, number 144, in pen 3, in which most of the 96 people died, had been removed at the suggestion of the South Yorkshire police in 1986, Goldring said. He told the jury: "You will no doubt have to consider whether barrier 144 should have been removed."

The coroner outlined how the 96 Liverpool supporters came to die in the crush in those central pens. There were 23 turnstiles to process all 24,000 Liverpool supporters with standing and seating tickets for the west stand, including seven for the 10,100 with tickets to stand on the Leppings Lane terrace.

Explaining that the two clubs' supporters were given different ends of the ground and different transport arrangements for reaching the ground, Goldring said this was because of concerns over hooliganism and fighting.

"It may be said by some that this was a reasonable concern, given the extent of serious soccer hooliganism at the time," he pointed out. "It may be said by others that police planning was too focused on problems of disorder and insufficiently focused on issues of crowd safety."

As Liverpool supporters arrived at Hillsborough, they did not get through the turnstiles quickly, the police did not form a cordon to ensure there was an orderly queue, and a crush developed outside.

Duckenfield ordered the exit gate to be opened after Supt Roger Marshall, the officer in charge outside the Leppings Lane end, radioed to request it three times, saying that otherwise someone would be killed. When the order was given, the coroner said, "no instructions were given to anybody about managing the crowd which was about to enter".

Pens 3 and 4 were relatively full, but police officers were not instructed to, and did not direct people away from a wide, downward sloping tunnel which led directly into those central pens.

Goldring said the jury "will consider the actions of the officers in the police control room and elsewhere", including: "Could or should anything, or anything more, have been done to guard against a dangerous situation developing in pens 3 and 4, for example by preventing access to the tunnel."

An influx of supporters described by one policeman as "a river," came into the pens, and the crush was so great that one of the crush barriers at the front of pen 3, numbered 124A, broke under the pressure of the crowd behind it, Goldring said.

"The crush in the pens, particularly at the front, was intolerable," the coroner told the jury. "You will hear harrowing accounts from fans subjected to this pressure who survived."

The coroner for the first inquest, which was quashed in December 2012 after a campaign by the bereaved families, ordered the blood of those who died to be tested for alcohol. That, Goldring said, "is not normal". The measurements showed that more than half the victims had no or negligible alcohol in their blood, and most of the rest showed "modest social drinking associated with a sporting event".

Families anxious for news of their loved ones waited first in a damp, dismal local boys' club, where their experience was dreadful, Goldring said. When they finally went to the football club's gymnasium at the Hillsborough ground, where the bodies were ordered by the first coroner to be held, to identify the victims, the family members were asked about whether they had been drinking, or misbehaving.

"Many of the bereaved remain distressed and angry to this day about the way they and the bodies of their loved ones were treated," the coroner said.

Having explained that the South Yorkshire police, seven former senior officers including Duckenfield and Marshall, the Police Federation, the FA, Sheffield Wednesday and the Yorkshire ambulance service are all legally represented as "interested parties", Goldring promised that the inquest "will not degenerate into the adversarial battle which scarred the original inquest".

Over the next few days of the inquest, which is scheduled to last a year, bereaved family members will give personal accounts describing their relatives who died. "The accounts which their relatives will give about their lives, personalities, hopes and plans will be extremely moving," Goldring said. "There is no doubt that this one disaster encompasses very many individual human tragedies."

Does anyone know of any of this is being televised?


--- Quote from: snez1 on April  2, 2014, 10:46:51 am ---Does anyone know of any of this is being televised?

--- End quote ---

No but you can get live updates here.


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