BID TO QUASH HILLSBOROUGH VERDICTS

Hillsborough Disaster tribute
Hillsborough Disaster tribute Photo: ITV Granada

The Government's most senior law officer urged the High Court today to quash the original accidental death inquest verdicts returned after 96 Liverpool football fans died in the crush at Hillsborough 23 years ago.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve made his application to the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and two other judges in a packed London courtroom.

Many families of victims of the 1989 tragedy, who have campaigned to have theverdicts overturned, have travelled to the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

Others are watching the proceedings in a courtroom in Liverpool via video-link.

The Liverpool supporters died at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on April 15 1989, where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.

Mr Grieve's legal move comes after a damning report into the disaster laid bare a cover-up which attempted to shift the blame for the tragedy on to its victims.

The court heard at the start of today's hearing that the application was not opposed.

Mr Grieve said that "nevertheless", "given the intense public interest" in the case, it was right - with the court's permission - that he set out the basis for the application he was making.

Mr Stoddart will be able to recruit investigators and staff to his team, but he will not be allowed to employ officers or former officers with any prior connection to the Hillsborough disaster.

He is also unable to recruit any officers or former officers who worked in the West Midlands, South Yorkshire or Merseyside police forces.

Mr Stoddart will also work closely with the previously announced Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into police conduct in the aftermath of the disaster.

He said: "I am aware of the great significance and personal responsibility which comes with leading this criminal investigation.

"My first priority is to meet with as many of the families as possible and to establish a working open relationship with them throughout the investigation.

"I have held a number of meetings already and have been struck by the families' humility and steadfast determination to see justice delivered for their loved ones.

"My role is to ensure that we determine exactly what happened in the lead-up to and on the day of the disaster and establish where any culpability lies."

The announcement was released ahead of a High Court application to quash the original accidental death inquest verdicts for the 96 fans killed in the crush at Hillsborough.

Some of the families of victims, who have campaigned to have the verdicts overturned, were attending the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

The Hillsborough independent panel report triggered a raft of apologies from the likes of Prime Minister David Cameron and former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie.

Mr MacKenzie was the editor of The Sun when it ran a front page story blaming fans for the disaster.

It also ultimately led to the resignation of West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, who was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time.

The panel's report found there were clear operational failures in response to the disaster and up to 41 fans could potentially have survived.

It also found the then chief constable of South Yorkshire, Peter Wright, and his officers, with the help of local Tory MP Irvine Patnick, sought to cover up the failing.

The Liverpool supporters died in a 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.