The 96 football fans who died as a result of the crush in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed, the jury has concluded.

After hearing evidence for more than a year, the jury found that match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield’s actions during the incident were a breach of duty to fans and amounted to “gross negligence”.

The inquest found that mistakes by the police added to the dangerous situation during the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

The behaviour and actions of Liverpool fans did not contribute to the danger in the stands, despite claims by The Sun and more recently Jeremy Hunt that reckless fans caused the deaths.

As the findings were read aloud in court, families of the victims hugged each other, and members of the public in the gallery applauded. Outside the courtroom, a spontaneous chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, Liverpool’s club song, erupted.

In a statement, Elkan Abrahamson and Marcia Stewart, from the law firms representing the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) and Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG), said:

“The jury’s conclusions completely vindicate the families’ long fight for justice.

“It is now 27 years since the Hillsborough families found themselves thrown together by the appalling tragedy that led to the loss of their loved ones.

“At the outset, that and support for Liverpool FC was probably all they had in common.

“The intervening years have brought much greater commonality: the shock and dismay at the way they were treated in the aftermath; anger at the cover-up which started immediately following the disaster; frustration and disbelief at the deficiencies of both the legal and political processes which failed to deliver justice; and, above all, a constant and enduring tenacity and dedication to exposing the truth which has, despite all attempts to derail the process, stood firm over the decades.

“It is shameful that, rather than focussing on the search for truth and despite having made public apologies, the approach to the inquests taken by South Yorkshire Police and the Yorkshire Ambulance Service was to fight tooth and nail to avoid adverse findings by the jury”.

“This turned the inquests into an adversarial battle that probably doubled the length of time it might otherwise have done.

“Notwithstanding the difficulties along the way, the conclusion of the renewed inquests does bring both significant progress on the journey to expose the truth and, we hope, some degree of comfort and sense of closure to the bereaved.

“There is, however, still a long road to travel – the recent investigations have already taken three years and we therefore now urge the authorities to conduct rigorous and speedy investigations which will lead to criminal and disciplinary proceedings and to the attribution of final and full accountability.

“We are humbled and inspired by the commitment of the families with whom we have had the privilege to work.

“Each have their own stories, but the common thread that runs throughout is their unremitting, unwavering dedication to achieving justice for the 96.”

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, who was instrumental in setting up the Hillsborough Independent Panel to investigate the disaster while in power, said:

“This has been the greatest miscarriage of justice of our times.

“But, finally, it is over. After 27 long years, this is real justice for the 96, their families and all Liverpool supporters.

“The survivors of this tragedy can finally be remembered for what they were on that day – the heroes of Hillsborough who tried to help their fellow fans.”

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