'Big step towards justice' for 96 tragic soccer fans
AFTER an anguished wait of 23 years, families of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster are a step closer to justice.
The British Attorney General has paved the way for fresh inquests, campaigners have said.
Dominic Grieve QC said he was taking the "exceptional course" of indicating that he will apply to quash the original accidental death verdicts before finishing his review of the evidence to spare families the anxiety of further delay.
The move comes after a damning report into the disaster 23 years ago laid bare a cover-up which attempted to shift the blame for the tragedy on to its victims.
Ninety-six Liverpool supporters died in the crush at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989, where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.
Liverpool MP Steve Rotheram said the attorney general's decision "marks one of the biggest steps forward in the fight for justice for the families in 23 years".
Some families have even refused to pick up the death certificates and the move raises the possibility of different verdicts "which the families have always believed should have reflected the unlawful killing of their loved ones", he added.
Pat Joynes, whose son Nicholas Joynes (27) was killed in the tragedy, said: "I'm highly delighted.
"We want the accidental death verdicts quashed so we can get manslaughter verdicts.
"I have spoken to different families over the weekend, that seems to be the opinion and it is what I would want as well -- corporate manslaughter and manslaughter verdicts."
She went on: "Ninety-six people can't die and hundreds injured without someone being held responsible.
"It's another milestone, yes. The truth, in my opinion, is finally coming out, I'm very pleased.
"We want to see justice. If that means police officers have to stand trial, well they should stand trial in a criminal court."
Mrs Joynes, who lives just outside St Helens, Merseyside, said she hoped any new inquests would be held in Liverpool rather than Sheffield again.
"My opinion, and I think most families' opinion, would be for Liverpool because years ago we had to get over to Sheffield nearly every day for weeks after weeks on end, and it's just too much for us now, we are all getting older, the mums and dads."
Any criminal proceedings would have an impact on when a new inquest could take place, Mr Grieve said, but this would not affect the timing of the application to have the original verdicts overturned.
"My consideration of the evidence is far from complete but, given the anxiety further delay may cause the families affected by the Hillsborough disaster, I have decided to take an exceptional course and state at this stage that, on the basis of what I have already seen, I have determined that I must make an application to the court," he said.
"In doing so, I should make it clear that further work will need to be done before any application can be made."