Families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster declared that justice had finally been done as an inquest jury concluded that the tragedy was caused by the police and the victims had been unlawfully killed.
Lawyers acting for the families said the conclusions, at the end of the longest jury case in British legal history, had completely vindicated their tireless 27-year battle.
Labour MP Andy Burnham, who has supported the campaign, said: “This has been the greatest miscarriage of justice of our times.
“But, finally, it is over.”
The jurors were told they could only reach the unlawful killing determination if they were sure of four “essential” matters concerning the deaths at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.
They had to be convinced that overall match commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield owed a duty of care to those who died in the disaster, and that he was in breach of that duty of care.
Thirdly, they would need to be satisfied that his breach of duty caused the deaths and, fourthly, that it amounted to “gross negligence”.
They concluded it was unlawful killing by a 7-2 majority.
The conclusion was greeted with sobbing and cheers at the hearing in Warrington.
The jury also ruled that fan behaviour did not cause or contribute to the tragedy.
The Hillsborough disaster unfolded during Liverpool’s cup tie against Nottingham Forest on April 15 as thousands of fans were crushed at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground.
Mr Duckenfield gave the order at 2.52pm to open exit Gate C in Leppings Lane, allowing around 2,000 fans to flood into the already packed central pens behind the goal.
The jury found that:
:: Both the police and the ambulance service caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster by an error or omission after the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop
:: They found unanimously that policing of the match caused or contributed to a dangerous situation developing at the Leppings Lane turnstiles
:: Commanding officers caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace as did those senior officers in the police control box when the order was given to open the exit gates at the Leppings Lane end
:: Features of the design, construction and layout of the stadium considered to be dangerous or defective caused or contributed to the disaster
:: The safety certification and oversight of the stadium also played a part
:: Sheffield Wednesday’s then consultant engineers, Eastwood & Partners, should have done more to detect and advise on any unsafe or unsatisfactory features of the stadium which caused or contributed to the disaster
No evidence of the emergency response after 3.15pm was heard at the original inquests.
The medical experts who gave evidence at the fresh inquests said the 3.15pm cut-off which had been imposed in the original inquests was arbitrary and wrong.
The cut-off was based on a misunderstanding, the court heard previously, that all of those who died were either dead or had suffered such severe brain injury by that time that it would inevitably prove to be fatal whatever the nature of the response.
On the question of the role of South Yorkshire Police in the emergency response, the jury said: “The police delayed calling a major incident so the appropriate emergency response was delayed.
“There was a lack of co-ordination, command and control which delayed or prevented appropriate responses.”
On the role of former South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (Symas), the jury said: “Symas officers at the scene failed to ascertain the nature of the problem at Leppings Lane.
“The failure to recognise and call a major incident led to delays in the responses to the emergency.”
The jury of six women and three men gave their decisions on an emotionally charged day for relatives of the 96, many of whom were at court.
The fresh inquests began on March 31, 2014, in a specially-built courtroom.
The 1991 accidental deaths verdicts from the original inquests were quashed following the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel, which concluded that a major cover-up had taken place in an effort by police and others to avoid the blame for what happened.
After the key conclusions were delivered today, someone in court shouted “God bless the jury”.
The jurors were given a round of applause as they left the courtroom.
Dozens of relatives of the victims have attended each of the more than 300 days the court has sat.
As families left the building they were met with applause from crowds who had gathered outside the court in support.
Many began singing LIverpool’s anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher tweeted: “Justice finally. #JFT96.”
John Aldridge, who was in the Liverpool team at Hillsborough, tweeted: “Fantastic to see the reaction of the families outside the court! Very emotional as well.
“The truth is out AT LAST. Take note all the doubters!!”
Home Secretary Theresa May was due to note the inquest findings in a written statement to Parliament on Tuesday, before coming before MPs to set out the Government’s response in an oral statement on Wednesday, said Downing Street.