- A jury has delivered its verdict into the Hillsborough disaster this morning (26 April) after a two-year inquest, the longest case heard by a British jury.
- The disaster, on 15 April 1989, saw 96 men, women and children killed during a FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield.
- The jury of six women and three men decided on 14 questions. Crucially, this included a "Yes" verdict on whether the victims were unlawfully killed, and a "No" verdict on whether football fans were to blame.
Summary of today's events
The inquest has finished hearing the names of 95 of the 96 Hillsborough victims. Each was given a time and cause of death, ending what has been a 27-year wait for the families they left behind.
The fallout of today's verdict could continue for years. A reminder of the jury's key findings:
- The jury into the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster concluded the victims were unlawfully killed.
- The jury also found the behaviour of fans on the day played no part in how the disaster unraveled.
- South Yorkshire Police were found to have failed in match preparation and reaction to events on the day.
- The ambulance service, safety of the stadium and Sheffield Wednesday staff were also criticised.
These verdicts raise the prospect of criminal cases. Labour MP Andy Burnham said that "prosecutions must follow", while the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed it would be looking into whether criminal charges should be brought against individuals or corporate bodies.
This could include former officers of South Yorkshire Police. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, said today his force accepts the verdict "unequivocally", and apologised to the victims' families.
But while he'll be hoping to put the matter behind him and restore trust in his officers, there have already been calls for the entire force to be disbanded.
Labour MP John Mann reacted to today's verdict by saying South Yorkshire Police force should be "closed down and reconfigured". He suggested the reputational damage had been so severe, the force would need to consider merging or being replaced.
Former football players and managers, as well as politicians, have been providing their reaction to the day's events, often under the slogan: "Justice for the 96." This include PM David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Today's verdict was also cheered as a victory of sorts by the victims' families.
The sentiment felt by some of the families themselves was summed up by Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) chairman Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son died in the disaster.
Standing outside the court this morning, she said: "The fans should all go home and be proud of themselves, they are heroes. They did nothing wrong that day and we did this for all of them. Our city always gets brought down but yet again it's the tough people of Liverpool who had to fight a cause that was so unjust, so unfair. We've done it and we've won it and I'm proud of every single one of them."
South Yorkshire Police apologises
The fall-out of today's verdict is likely to continue for months, perhaps even years. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said this morning it would be looking into whether criminal charges should be brought against individuals or corporate body.
This could include former officers of South Yorkshire Police, after the jury responded with a "Yes" verdict to several questions which criticised its officers conduct.
Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, has said his force accepts "unequivocally" the verdict of unlawful, giving this statement:
A list of which questions saw a "Yes" verdict from the jury can be seen here:
Reaction from former Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez.
He said: "After so many years fighting for justice I am really pleased to see the verdict today, which confirms what we have been saying for a long time. I am especially pleased for the families of the 96 who have sought justice for so long and with such dignity, as well as for the people of Liverpool and for football fans in general.
"Hopefully this verdict today will ensure that this kind of tragedy can never happen again."
The clock at Liverpool Town Hall has been set to 3.06 today. It marks the moment the Hillsborough match was abandoned as the tragedy unfurled.
Engineering company Eastwood and Partners has responded to the verdict given on Question 12, in which the jury said the firm should have "done more to detect and advise on any unsafe or unsatisfactory features of Hillsborough stadium".
A statement issued by the firm said: "We fully respect the inquest's findings and will study them carefully. We have fully supported and followed the inquest and all inquiries from the outset.
"We would like to say sorry on behalf of the company at that time and to add our deepest sympathies to all those affected by this tragedy. We would also like to add that we are a very different company today and there is no-one here who has any first-hand knowledge of the stadium design decisions concerning Hillsborough in the 1980s.
This was a terrible, tragic incident that will never be forgotten and out of the disaster there has come a legacy of improved stadium safety throughout the country."
As more former Liverpool players react to the verdict, here's a reminder of how the families responded outside the court this morning.
John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, says the credibility of South Yorkshire Police has been so badly damaged, it should be "closed down and reconfigured".
He said: "Nobody should pre-judge ongoing inquiries into the police, but whatever conclusions they reach, the credibility of the institution of South Yorkshire Police has been irreparably damaged.
"It needs a new identity and more importantly a new ethos and ethics. South Yorkshire police should be disbanded.
"There are many hardworking police officers and staff currently working for South Yorkshire Police who have joined in recent years and they deserve a fresh start. There are two clear options to bring this about – either by creating a police force based on Sheffield City Region or a merger with West Yorkshire Police."
Borussia Dortmund, the former club of current Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp, has tweeted a tribute to the Hillsborough families.
The two teams played a match on the eve of the 27th anniversary of the disaster, with fans singing an emotionally-charged rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone.
Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) chairman Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son died in the disaster, says
It's been 27 years. To get a clean sweep, 14-nil – nothing can beat it. It wasn't just about the 96 who died, this was about all of the families, the fans and the survivors. This was getting a clean sweep and clearing their names as well. I want them 96 to rest in peace.
"The fans should all go home and be proud of themselves, they are heroes. They did nothing wrong that day and we did this for all of them. Our city always gets brought down but yet again it's the tough people of Liverpool who had to fight a cause that was so unjust, so unfair. We've done it and we've won it and I'm proud of every single one of them."
More former Liverpool FC players give their reaction:
Reaction from Jim Beglin, former Liverpool FC player (1983 to 1989).
Maria Eagle, MP for Garston and Halewood, says she has been working with the victims' families since the 1990s when, as a junior solicitor, the firm she worked for was involved in the civil litigation on behalf of the Hillsborough families.
She gives her reaction on today's verdict:
"My thoughts today are with the families of the 96 people who died and the survivors who witnessed such carnage more than 27 years ago. They have had to face a terrible ordeal over such an extended period of time that their ongoing trauma can only be guessed at.
"At every stage, they have had to defend the reputations of the dead against gross lies and distortions by those responsible for the disaster. South Yorkshire Police bear a particular responsibility for this.
"As someone who has fought alongside the families for justice since I was elected to Parliament in 1997, I am glad that this ordeal has come closer to being over with the delivery of the inquest verdicts today.
"Further legal proceedings may now result and I look forward to the CPS considering these findings. At the outset of these new inquests, we were all cautiously optimistic that a verdict of unlawful killing would be reached. It is a huge victory for the families in their campaign for justice for the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives tragically on that day that a verdict of unlawful killing was returned today.
"It is also a complete vindication of the families and the survivors of the disaster that the jury unanimously agreed that the behaviour of fans did not cause or contribute to the situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles.
"Lord Justice Taylor came to this conclusion within months of the disaster. We have to ask as a society how it has been left to the families to conduct this campaign over 27 years to clear the names and defend the reputations of those who died and survived the trauma."
The jury has read its verdict concerning the youngest person to die – 10-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley. He was found to have died from compression asphyxia.
The jury is sitting in court again to finish their role in deciding the time and cause of death for each of the 96 Hillsborough victims. The causes of death are all linked to crushing (compression asphyxia).
The jury's "No" verdict on whether football fans were to blame for how the Hillsborough disaster unraveled is part-vindication for those who have long claimed the authorities were instrumental in a cover up.
In 2012, the Hillsborough Independent Panel's (HIP) report showed how South Yorkshire Police altered witness statements after the disaster in "strenuous attempts" to put the blame on Liverpool fans.
But another IBTimes UK piece in 2012 showed how questions for South Yorkshire Police went beyond the Hillsborough disaster. Campaigners and lawyers for the victims' families alleged officers may have been guilty of "similar misdemeanours" when police were involved in 1984-5 clashes with striking miners at Orgreave.
Read the full account here:
Former Liverpool FC player John Aldridge gives his reaction to the verdict, saying: "The truth is out at last."
Read his eye-witness account of the Hillsborough disaster in our piece here:
Prime Minister David Cameron has given his reaction to the jury's verdict, describing the inquest as "long overdue justice".
The Sun has received a torrent of online abuse after tweeting its report concerning today's Hillsborough inquest verdict. The tabloid controversially claimed Liverpool fans pick-pocketed and urinated on the dead, and attacked police attempting to give the kiss of life.
The claims later turned out to be false. The tabloid apologised in 2012 for its coverage at the time.
Its apology did not stop this banner being unfurled outside the court this morning.
CPS to consider criminal charges
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says it will consider whether any criminal charges should be brought following today's verdict.
Sue Hemming, Head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division at the CPS said: "Following the inquest's determinations the CPS team will continue to work closely with Operation Resolve and the IPCC as in due course, the CPS will formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body based upon all the available evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
"We would ask that everyone is mindful of the continuing investigations and the potential for future criminal proceedings when reporting or publicly commenting on the inquest's conclusions."
IPCC Deputy Chair, Rachel Cerfontyne, said: "The conclusion of the inquests is another milestone and a day when my thoughts are with the families and friends of those who died as a result of the disaster.
"Now the inquests have ended our role in providing documents and other material to support the Coroner is over. However the end of the inquests does not mark the end of the process.Our attention now focuses on concluding our criminal investigation into the aftermath of the disaster. This is by far the biggest and most complex investigation ever undertaken by the IPCC.
"We have made significant progress on the investigation and we will continue to work closely with Operation Resolve and the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue our remaining lines of enquiry as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. I anticipate we will conclude the criminal investigations by the turn of the year."
A full report of today's verdict can be seen here:
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have said they will now work closely with the Independent Police Complaints Commission to consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body in response to the verdicts and will make a decision by the end of the year.
Families sing You'll Never Walk Alone outside the court.
The first pictures have emerged showing the reaction of the victims' families to the verdict. Some were seen breaking down in tears as others cheered outside the court.