Part 1: Hillsborough: 'what was known'


1.1 On 15 April 1989 Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were scheduled to play in the semi-final of the world's oldest and most celebrated soccer competition - the Football Association Cup (FA Cup).

1.2 By coincidence, it was a re-match of the 1988 Semi-Final between the two clubs. Both matches were played at a neutral venue, Hillsborough Stadium, the home of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. On the same afternoon the other semi-final, between Everton and Norwich, was scheduled for Villa Park in Birmingham, home of Aston Villa FC.
1.3 At Hillsborough the match kicked off at 3pm. Six minutes later the referee stopped play and took the players from the pitch. At one end of the stadium, on the Leppings Lane terrace where Liverpool spectators were standing, a crush had become so severe that people were climbing the fences onto the pitch. Others were being pulled up into the seated area of the West Stand above the terrace.

1.4 It was soon realised that many people were injured, some fatally. A tragedy was unfolding, witnessed by over 54,000 people inside the stadium, television and radio broadcasters, numerous journalists and press photographers, and recorded on CCTV.
1.5 As a consequence of the crush 96 men, women and children died, 162 were treated at hospitals in Sheffield and Barnsley, many more were traumatised and the families of those who died and survived were changed forever. Others have died prematurely, their deaths probably hastened by the physical injuries or psychological suffering endured at Hillsborough and its aftermath.

1.6 In terms of lives lost, the Hillsborough disaster is the most serious crowd-related tragedy at a sports event in Britain. It is also the most investigated and studied. Within two days of the disaster a Judicial Inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Taylor, was appointed (the Taylor Inquiry).

1.7 South Yorkshire Police (SYP), responsible for the policing at Hillsborough, immediately organised an internal inquiry (the Wain Inquiry) and the Chief Constable of the WMP, Geoffrey Dear, was invited to conduct a full criminal investigation.
1.8 This was agreed and the WMP investigators, led by Assistant Chief Constable Mervyn Jones, serviced the Taylor Inquiry, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the South Yorkshire West District Coroner, Dr Stefan Popper. The public inquiry, the WMP investigation and the inquests formed the three distinct but related strands of inquiry.

1.9 The Taylor Inquiry published its Interim Report in August 1989, focusing on the circumstances of the disaster, and a Final Report in January 1990, broadening the focus to consider all matters of safety at sports events. The DPP's decision not to prosecute any individual or corporate body was taken in late August 1990.
1.10 Inquests were held in two parts. Limited preliminary hearings of the evidence concerning the deaths of each of the then 95 deceased were held before the jury between 18 April and 4 May 1990. The inquests resumed in generic form, taking place between 19 November 1990 and 28 March 1991 culminating in verdicts of accidental death.  A challenge to those verdicts on behalf of six bereaved families, commenced in April 1992, eventually was dismissed by the High Court in November 1993.

1.11 On 11 July 1991 the Police Complaints Authority directed that the two officers with overall command at Hillsborough, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield and his assistant, Superintendent Bernard Murray, should face a disciplinary hearing to answer the charge of 'neglect of duty'. C/Supt Duckenfield retired on medical grounds and in January 1992 it was decided not to pursue a case against Supt Murray alone.

1.12 Throughout this period there was a range of civil litigation, including test cases for compensation in respect of the pre-death pain and suffering of the deceased, the trauma suffered by close relatives who were not directly affected or injured in the events, and the trauma suffered by police officers on duty. These cases were significant and appeals progressed to the House of Lords.

1.13 In March 1993 the decision was taken to withdraw feeding and hydration from Tony Bland who had remained in a persistent vegetative state since receiving his injuries at Hillsborough. His case was also subject to appeal and also progressed to the House of Lords.

1.14 In June 1997, following persistent campaigning by the Hillsborough Family Support Group, and representations by Merseyside MPs, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, announced an unprecedented 'judicial scrutiny' of new evidence not previously available to the Home Office Inquiry, the DPP or the police disciplinary process.

1.15 The Home Secretary appointed Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, who reported on 18 February 1998 and recommended that no further action was warranted. A House of Commons Adjournment Debate followed in May 1998.

1.16 The Hillsborough Family Support Group proceeded with a private prosecution for manslaughter against former C/Supt Duckenfield and Supt Murray. In August 1999 the Leeds Stipendiary Magistrate allowed the private prosecution to proceed and in February 2000 both officers appealed to the Divisional Court.
1.17 Their appeals failed. The trial was held in Leeds between 6 June and 24 July 2000. Bernard Murray was acquitted and the jury was undecided on David Duckenfield. Application for a re-trial was refused.

1.18 In 2009, following a public announcement by Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, concerning the possible early release of Hillsborough-related documents, the Hillsborough Family Support Group met with the Home Secretary. As a consequence the Hillsborough Independent Panel was appointed in January 2010.

1.19 Its terms of reference committed the Panel to 'maximum public disclosure' of all documents held by official agencies and to the publication of a comprehensive report demonstrating how the disclosed material 'adds to public understanding' of the disaster, its context, circumstances and aftermath. The Panel was also expected to oversee the establishment of the Hillsborough Archive, containing all primary documents held by the contributing agencies. The Panel was also expected to oversee the establishment of the Hillsborough Archive, holding all primary documents held by the contributing agencies.