A UK jury has ruled that 96 football fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough Stadium almost three decades ago were 'unlawfully killed.' This reversed a previous verdict of 'accidental death.'
The jury in the northern English town of Warrington found by a majority of 7-2 on Tuesday that the 96 Liverpool fans had been "unlawfully killed" and that "errors and omissions" by the police had contributed to their deaths, which occurred at Sheffield's Hillsborough Stadium on April 15, 1989.
They found that the deaths were caused by "crushing in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace, following the admission of a large number of supporters to the stadium through exit gates."
Specifically, they found that errors made by the police had created a dangerous situation at the turnstiles and that mistakes made by commanding officers had led to the crush, which occurred in the opening minutes of the English FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The jury also found that police had waited too long before declaring a major incident.
The jurors also found that the behavior of Liverpool supporters had not contributed to the tragedy.
Previous verdict reversed
The decision follows a two-year coroner's inquest into the disaster, which was ordered by London's High Court in 2012 when it quashed the "accidental death" verdict from the original inquest.
Relatives of some of the victims of the disaster, who were present in the public gallery when the verdict was handed down, applauded the jury as they left the courtroom. Outside, relatives of the victims, some wearing Liverpool scarves, sang the club's athem, "You'll Never Walk Alone."
British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the verdict as "long overdue justice" for the victims.
After the verdict was announced, the Crown Prosecution Service said it would "formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body."
The Hillsborough tragedy led to major changes to English football that were designed to make supporters safer. The metal fences that were once used to keep supporters penned in their stands were removed. The stadiums were also converted into all-seated facilities.
pfd/rd (Reuters, dpa AP)