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Hillsborough Verdict Quashed, New Investigation Ordered

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With the original inquest into the Hillsborough disaster's verdict quashed and a new investigation ordered, the fight for justice that has gone on for more than two decades today took two significant steps forward.

Michael Regan

Another step towards justice was taken today when, twenty-two years after the inquest into the Hillsborough Disaster found accidental death as the cause of 96 lost lives, the original verdict was quashed. This landmark decision, perhaps the most important to date in the ongoing battle for truth and justice to win out after more than two hard-fought decades for the friends and families of Hillsborough's victims, now sets the stage for a new inquest into the disaster and the possibility for new verdicts of unlawful killing that could see those responsible finally held to account.

"However distressing or unpalatable, the truth will be brought to light," said the lord chief justice overseeing the case. "In this way, the families of those who died in the disaster will be properly respected. Our earnest wish is the new inquest will not be delayed for a moment longer than necessary.

"We must [also] 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."

The chief justice further stated that following new medical evidence that revealed nearly 60 of Hillsborough's victims had had the capacity to survive beyond the 3:15PM cutoff set in the original inquest—a decision the chief justice called "distressing"—on the advice of the coroner at the time, a new inquest into the events of 1989 was inevitable given the growing and widespread belief that justice had not been done at the time. The "wholesale alteration" of police statements was also cited as a reason why a new inquest was needed.

Shortly following the chief justice's verdict, a new investigation into the disaster was ordered by the home secretary, who stated: "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.

"The findings of the Hillsborough independent panel were truly shocking, but while the families have now been given the truth, they have not yet received justice."

After a year that has already seen a great deal of movement towards first truth and then justice winning out, today's decisions to quash the original inquest's verdict and launch a new police investigation into the Hillsborough disaster aren't the end, but they are perhaps the most significant to date. They will also perhaps help to put at ease those who feared that even after the public debates and apologies earlier in the year, in the end nothing would be done and those in charge would attempt to sweep the events of 1989 back under the carpet.