Socialist Worker

Jury retires to consider its decisions in Hillsborough inquests

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2498

A tribute to Liverpool fans who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster

A tribute to Liverpool fans who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster (Pic: Edmund Gall/flickr)

The jury in the Hillsborough inquests has retired today, Wednesday, to consider its decisions. The jury will consider the medical cause and time of death of the 96 Liverpool fans who died as a result of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

 Jurors will also consider what factors caused or contributed to the deaths. These include looking at police preparation for the match, policing on the day, actions of commanding officers, behaviour of fans and stadium design.

The jury will also consider whether the fans were unlawfully killed.

The coroner, Sir John Goldring, reminded jurors, “Nobody has suggested that there was any hooligan behaviour which contributed to this disaster.

“And there is no coherent evidence of supporters conspiring to force entry to the ground. There was no evidence from any AV material suggesting any misbehaviour.”

The coroner spelled out what the jury should consider when deciding whether fans had been unlawfully killed.

He said that inquest juries can’t name people who may have been responsible for murder or manslaughter. But in order to decide that fans were unlawfully killed jurors would “have to be sure that David Duckenfield was responsible for the manslaughter by gross negligence”.

They will have to decide whether match commander David Duckenfield had a duty of care to fans and whether he breached it.

He added that Duckenfield’s representatives agreed that he did owe a duty of care to fans.

The jury will have to decide if any breach caused deaths, although it does not have to be the only cause. They will have to decide if any breach amounted to gross negligence.

They will have to be decide whether any breach was “so serious that it should be classed as criminal”. The coroner said a unanimous decision would be required.


The jury was reminded earlier this week to consider the role of Norman Bettison.

Bettison was a superintendent with South Yorkshire Police (SYP) at the time of the disaster. He was part of a team gathering evidence from officers in the wake of the crush.

The coroner said two business students who attended an evening class with Bettison had given evidence regarding his role.

One, John Barry, said Bettison had told him police were “going to try and concoct a story that all of the Liverpool fans were drunk”.

Barry said Bettison said police would say “we were afraid they were going to break down the gates so we decided to open them”.

Another student, Mark Ellaby, said Bettison had said he was on a team “tasked with making sure that South Yorkshire Police bore no blame for the Hillsborough disaster”.

Bettison denied their accounts. But he admitted he was given the job of looking for negative evidence about Liverpool fans.

Bettison attended a Police Federation meeting in October 1989 with Tory MP Michael Shersby. He showed a video to the meeting and later showed it to a group of MPs in the Houses of Parliament.

The coroner said the video “contained elements of hooliganism to put what followed, he said, into context”.

Bettison became chief constable of Merseyside Police in 1998. He didn’t mention his role following Hillsborough in his application form.

The coroner said, “Only if you were to conclude that Sir Norman Bettison deliberately sought to hide his role concerning Hillsborough would this evidence be relevant. Only then would it be evidence capable of going to possible manipulation by South Yorkshire Police of the narrative of the disaster.”

The inquests continue.

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Wed 6 Apr 2016, 14:52 BST
Issue No. 2498
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