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Hillsborough Verdicts: What’s Next?

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Today’s Hillsborough inquest verdict of unlawful killing stands as a victory for the truth after 27 years of fighting, but it isn’t the end of the fight for justice and accountability.

Conclusions Are Reached On All 96 Deaths At The Hillsborough Inquest Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

After 27 long years of fighting for the truth, today’s verdict in the Hillsborough disaster inquest delivered some measure of justice for the families and friends of the 96 men and women who went to a football match and didn’t make it home due to police and stadium planning errors and a horribly mishandled response.

After 27 years, a verdict that those fans had been unlawfully killed and that they had done nothing to contribute to disaster that took their lives is a watershed moment. It is a moment that will, perhaps, allow the survivors and the friends and families of those who lost their lives to begin to put some of that hurt and pain behind them. It’s taken far too long.

It’s not the end of the road, though. While the verdict handed down vindicated those who spent nearly three decades fighting for truth and justice, and while it absolving Liverpool fans of blame in the disaster is a monumental decision, it is a decision that only absolves the victims. There as yet remains a need to hold those responsible to account.

On that front, David Duckenfield, the match commander on the day of the disaster, could be set to face criminal charges after the inquest revealed he had been aware of the potential for a dangerous crush and then failed to act when faced with evidence one was in progress. And that in the aftermath he then lied about his actions and the actions of fans.

Following the delivery of today’s verdict, the Crown Prosecution Service released a statement outlining that criminal charges are under consideration for any "individual or corporate body" deemed culpable in an ongoing criminal investigation. That investigation is expected to be concluded by the end of the year, at which point charges could be laid.

Along with Duckenfield, there could be charges laid against members of the South Yorkshire Police who were involved in directing a black propaganda campaign that sought to blame victims and absolve the police force of culpability by issuing misleading press briefings and doctoring any reports made by officers on the scene that day that reflected badly on them.

While the CPS could lay criminal charges, some of the officers who had their statements doctored in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster are considering a corporate case against the South Yorkshire Police and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. As with criminal charges, whether a corporate case goes ahead should be known by the end of the year.

Sheffield council members, the ambulance service, and stadium engineers involved in match planning could also end up facing charges as a result of the investigations. Today’s verdict of unlawful killing is an unequivocal victory for those who have spent 27 years fighting for the truth, and it is a massive step forward in the fight for justice, but it it isn’t the end.

"The truth is out there for all to see," Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram said of today’s verdict, summing up the mood of so many who have devoted their lives to the fight. "Justice has been served by the verdicts and now it is about accountability."