-- A solemn vigil commemorating 96 soccer fans who were crushed to death in Britain’s worst stadium disaster was taking place today, in an event due to be attended by more than 20,000 people.
At the event, the names of all those who died in the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989 will be displayed outside St George's Hall in Liverpool and 96 lanterns and red roses will be set up on the steps of the building in their memory. It comes a day after a jury found that the supporters were unlawfully killed – a verdict long in coming that many hope will now lead to criminal charges and justice for the families who fought for the truth to come out.
After nearly three decades, an inquest released on Tuesday found that contrary to claims made in the aftermath of the disaster, the behaviour of fans was not to blame and that errors were made by police, match hosts, the soccer club and the ambulance service.
In addition to failures by authorities, it was found that lies and cover-ups had prevented the truth to come out.
The verdict has already led to the suspension of a regional police chief over his response to the incident. A decision on possible charges is expected to be made in the coming months.
But regardless of what happens going forward, the impact and legacy of Hillsborough will continue to leave a mark on soccer, the city of Liverpool and relations with the police.
After the initial inquest in 1991, the deaths were ruled as accidental but in 2012 the High Court quashed the verdicts and ordered fresh inquests to be held.
Cameron subsequently apologized, saying: “On behalf of the government - and indeed our country - I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long.”
For many in England, the result of the inquests is seen as a victory for the working class over the establishment. “Ultimately, the Inquests stand as testament to the struggle undertaken by the families so the truth might be brought to light,” the Football Association said in a statement.
The tragic events have had a significant impact in England on how big events are organized. The National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Chief Constable Sara Thornton said Hillsborough “shaped how we police football matches,” and that while football policing, stadium safety and its regulation have moved on significantly, it will be carefully reviewing the jury's findings and intends to act on any further recommendations that will help keep people safe.”
Individuals and organisations could face charges over Hillsborough, such as the Former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who jurors ruled was in breach of his duty of care which amounted to "gross negligence". Duckenfield had earlier conceded that he had inadequate experience to oversee the safety of 54,000 people, and that he had lied to the Football Association saying fans were to blame for gaining unauthorised entry through a large exit gate.
Yorkshire Ambulance Service could also face prosecution as jurors said the ambulance service “caused or contributed to the loss of lives by failing to ascertain the nature of the problem in the pens and failed to recognise and declare a major incident, leading to a delay in the emergency response.” Rod Barnes, the current head of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said he was "truly sorry" and admitted lives could have been saved if its response had been different.
As Home Secretary Theresa May said on Tuesday, the events of 15 April 1989 shocked the country. Members of the British press were blamed for their coverage of the tragedy at the time. Infamously, the Sun newspaper ran a story four days after the tragedy proclaiming to tell "The Truth" about the disaster with alleged claims from a policeman that some fans had "picked pockets of victims" and "urinated on cops". The newspaper has since apologized. Even so, to this day many in Liverpool refuse to buy the newspaper in protest.
There are two ongoing investigations: Operation Resolve, which is the criminal investigation, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Both are expected to submit their findings to the Crown Prosecution Service by the end of 2016.