Hillsborough Disaster: date of tragedy when 97 Liverpool FC fans died and what is ‘Justice for 97’

Friday marks the 33rd anniversary of the disaster, when 97 men, women and children were unlawfully killed.

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Friday, April 15, marks the 33rd anniversary of the disaster, when 97 men, women and children were unlawfully killed.

The tragic events at Sheffield Wednesday’s home ground Hillsborough led to a decades-long campaign for justice and has left an enduring legacy on British football.

When did the Hillsborough Disaster take place?

The Hillsborough Disaster took place on April 15 1989 during an FA Cup semi-final tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

It took place in the two standing-only central pens in the Leppings Lane stand, which were allocated to Liverpool supporters.

As the tragic and avoidable crush in the stands unfolded, the match was abandoned, and the fixture was fulfilled at Old Trafford the following month.

What happened during the Hillsborough Disaster?

In an attempt to alleviate overcrowding near turnstile entrances just before the match was due to kick off, police match commander David Duckenfield ordered a nearby exit gate to be opened.

An influx of supporters were then ushered into the standing areas in which Liverpool fans were situated, which led to a devastating crush.

With 97 fatalities and 766 injuries, it remains the highest death toll in British sporting history.

What was the aftermath of the disaster?

South Yorkshire Police falsely suggested to the press in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, that the actions of Liverpool fans, including drunkenness and hooliganism, had been a significant contributing factor in the severity of the incident.

This became the overriding and misleading narrative in the majority of the national media.

However, in 1990, the Taylor Report found that the police’s failure to control the crowd had been the main cause. The report also recommended that all major stadiums convert to an all-seater model.

The first coroner’s inquests into the tragedy, completed in 1991, concluded with verdicts of ‘accidental death’ in respect of all 95 deceased.

The two further victims of the disaster would pass away in 1993 and 2021 respectively. Families of those involved disputed the inquest’s findings, beginning a long campaign for the matter to be re-examined.

A second inquest into Hillsborough was held between 2014 and 2016, with the coroner’s ruling that supporters were unlawfully killed due to gross negligence from police and ambulance services, who failed to fulfil their duty of care.

The inquests also found that the design of the stadium itself contributed to the fatal crush, and that supporters were not to blame for the events leading up to the tragedy.

In 2017, six people were charged with offences including manslaughter by gross negligence, misconduct in public office, and perverting the course of justice for their actions during and after the disaster. Charges against one defendant were subsequently dropped.

In 2021, South Yorkshire Police admitted that “serious errors and mistakes were made” during the disaster and in the subsequent investigation and offered an “unreserved apology” to the victims and their families.

Two retired police officers and a former solicitor were accused of altering police statements after the disaster but were acquitted at the latest trial on the tragedy in May 2021.

Along with West Midlands Police, the force agreed to pay damages to more than 600 people affected, following the cover-up.

A senior government minister has referred to the disaster as “the greatest scandal of British policing of our lifetimes”.

Nobody has ever been convicted over police actions during and after the disaster.

Who was the 97th victim?

Andrew Devine became the 97th victim of the Hillsborough disaster on 27 July 2021 - 32 years after he suffered life-changing injuries in the stadium crush.

A lifelong Liverpool FC fan, Mr Devine was 22 at the time of the disaster.

He died, aged 55, from aspiration pneumonia, which was caused by a brain injury due to oxygen deprivation and crush injuries.

What is “Justice for the 97”?

In the wake of Andrew Devine’s death, a minute’s applause was held during Liverpool’s first home game since lockdown last year against Burnley, and fans chanted “Justice for the 97”.

Fans also displayed a mosaic tribute, which featured the number 97, and outside the stadium, the name of 96 Avenue walkway was renamed 97 Avenue.

Liverpool FC said that for the 2022-23 season, the 97 emblem would feature on the neck of the club’s playing shirts.

The decades long campaign for truth had been called Justice for the 96.

What is the latest in the campaign for justice?

Ahead of the 2022 anniversary of the disaster, the mayors of Liverpool city region and Greater Manchester wrote to 650 MPs urging them to support the ‘Hillsborough law’, which would create a more level playing field between public authorities and bereaved families.

The proposed reforms to the legal system are that public officials including police officers should have a “duty of candour”.

It also states that bereaved families should have full funding for lawyers to represent them at inquests and that public bodies sign a charter committing them to fair conduct.

The proposals were developed after the 2014-16 inquest, but the government has not passed any of the reforms into law.