Hillsborough verdict: Criminal prosecutions could follow inquest

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Families break out in song after Hillsborough verdict
01:39 - Source: CNN

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Jurors at inquest find 96 fans who died were unlawfully killed

Two investigations focus on disaster and its aftermath

Both are likely to be completed by the end of the year

CNN  — 

Criminal investigations into the 1989 Hillsborough soccer disaster and its aftermath are set to be completed by the end of the year, with charges against individuals and organizations potentially following.

After more than two years of hearing evidence, jurors at an inquest into the tragedy found that the 96 Liverpool fans who died at an FA Cup semifinal match in Sheffield were unlawfully killed.

The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service will look at whether to bring criminal charges once the criminal investigations have been concluded.

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The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is carrying out the biggest investigation in its history into an alleged cover-up in the aftermath of what was Britain’s worst sporting tragedy.

A police investigation is focusing on the day of the disaster itself.

The officer leading the police inquiry, Assistant Commissioner Jon Stoddart, said: “Today is a day for the families. They have fought hard for many years for these new inquests, and today brings an end to this particular part of their journey.

“Now that the inquests have concluded, my sole focus is on completing the criminal investigation, which I expect will be finished by the turn of the year.

“It will then be for the Crown Prosecution Service to consider the evidence and decide whether any individual or organization should face criminal prosecution.”

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IPCC deputy chairwoman Rachel Cerfontyne said she also anticipated that investigations would be concluded by the turn of the year.

At the end of each investigation, files will be submitted to the CPS if there is sufficient evidence for a potential prosecution.

“Following the inquests’ determinations, the CPS team will continue to work closely with Operation Resolve and the IPCC,” Sue Hemming, Head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division at the organization, said.

“In due course the CPS will formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body based upon all the available evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”

The investigations could lead to a prosecution of David Duckenfield, the officer in charge of crowd safety on the day of the disaster.

To reach their verdict of unlawful killing, the jurors had to be satisfied that Duckenfield, then a chief superintendent, owed a duty of care to those who died, was in breach of that duty and that the breach amounted to gross negligence.

The Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales told CNN that “there is no comment from Mr Duckenfield, either directly or on his behalf.”

In a statement, Chief Superintendent Tim Jackson, the organization’s national secretary, said: “The inquests have been a very long and extremely difficult process for everyone involved, and our thoughts and our sympathies are with the families of those who died in this tragedy.

READ: 27 years of grief - the ‘despicable treatment of victims’ families

“Even though the inquests have concluded, there are ongoing investigations by the IPCC and Operation Resolve which involve former members of the association, who we are supporting.

“We are unable to make any further comment until these investigations are complete.”

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