The 96 inquests into the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster concluded on 26th April 2016. Christina Lambert QC was appointed by the Coroner, Sir John Goldring, in March 2013 to lead the Coroner’s team of 7 counsel. That team included Matthew Hill as First Junior Counsel and Paul Reynolds, both of One Crown Office Row. The Coroner’s counsel team was instructed by Tim Suter of Fieldfisher.
96 football supporters lost their lives as a result of a crush on the terraces at Hillsborough stadium during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989. There followed a public inquiry and a series of inquests held in 1990 and 1991 that led to verdicts of “accidental death”. Following a lengthy campaign, and the discovery of new evidence, those verdicts were quashed by the High Court in 2012 and fresh inquests ordered.
Those new inquests opened with a jury in March 2014 after 6 pre-inquest reviews. The first phase of the hearing covered the topics of stadium safety, preparation and planning for the match, the events of the day, the emergency response and evidence gathering. The second phase focused on the movements and experience within the stadium of each of those who died, and the cause and time of their deaths. In the two year hearing, 620 witnesses were called to give evidence and a further 532 witness accounts were read to the jury. More than a million documents were disclosed during the process. Evidence from experts in structural engineering, policing, emergency response, intensive care and forensic pathology and neuropathology was obtained.
Throughout their involvement Christina, Matthew and Paul advised the Coroner on all aspects of the conduct of the inquests and the legal issues which arose.
Christina led the factual and expert evidence on behalf of the Coroner. This included the evidence of the senior police officers and the Match Commander, David Duckenfield. During her examination, David Duckenfield admitted having lied when describing fans forcing the exit gate to gain access to the ground. She also led the examination of Mr Albert Page, the former Chief of the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service, who made a series of highly critical observations concerning the response by that organisation to the emergency as it unfolded. During second phase of the inquests, Christina and Matthew together elicited the evidence concerning the tragic circumstances of the 96 who died.
On 26 April the jury returned its conclusions. A general questionnaire, covering 14 areas of consideration, was used to elicit the jury’s determination on the generic matters that caused or contributed to the deaths. The jury found, among other matters, that those who died were unlawfully killed and that fan behaviour at the ground was not causative of the deaths. Individual questionnaires were used to elicit the jury’s conclusions about the specific cause and time of death for each of the 96 who died.
Further information about the inquests can be found here.