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Coroner: Hillsborough 'seared into the memories'
11:53am Tuesday 1st April 2014 in News
The Hillsborough disaster is "seared into the memories" of everyone affected by it, a coroner has told jurors hearing the fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 football fans who died.
Making an opening statement today, Lord Justice Goldring explained that the tragedy was "the worst ever disaster at a British sports stadium", when hundreds of people were hurt and dozens killed when they were crushed in a crowd of spectators.
The disaster unfolded on April 15 1989 during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest as thousands of fans were crushed on the ground's Leppings Lane terrace.
More than 400 people were taken to hospital with injuries, 95 fans were killed and the 96th died later.
Lord Justice Goldring said: "The disaster is seared into the memories of the very many people affected by it, most notably of course the families of the 96 people who died."
He told the jury of seven women and four men that the findings in the original inquests were quashed in December 2012.
"A new inquiry was needed, we are conducting the new or fresh inquiry. In doing so we are not concerned with whether what was decided at the previous inquiries was right or wrong."
Briefly outlining the events of the day, the coroner said: "Around the time of the kick-off, a terrible crush developed in two pens, within the... terrace at the west end of the stadium - the Lepping Lane end.
"That's where the Liverpool fans were standing."
He went on: "The pressure in the pens built up. Many of those in the pens suffered terrible crushing injuries."
Before the jury was sworn in, names of each of the 96 victims of the disaster were read aloud in a powerful opening.
Against a backdrop of a reverent silence, relatives wept quietly as each name was slowly read to the jury by counsel to the inquests, Christina Lambert QC.
Ms Lambert's voice cracked as she went through the emotional roll-call before the jurors were sworn in.
The coroner told the jury that a new inquest was ordered following a "campaign by bereaved families".
Lord Justice Goldring said: "In doing so, we are not concerned with whether what was decided at the previous hearing was right or wrong."
Explaining the role of the jury during the inquest, the coroner said: "As part of your task, you will, I anticipate, have to consider the underlying circumstances which contributed to the cause of these deaths, whether opportunities were lost which might have prevented the deaths or saved lives."
He added: "It's important you approach these inquest hearings with an open mind.
"You must not approach it with a pre-formed case or agenda."
Quoting from previous comments made on the fresh inquests, the coroner said: "While searching fearlessly for the truth, we should avoid this hearing degenerating into the kind of adversarial battle which looking back on it scarred the original inquests."
The coroner stressed that there would be a great deal of media interest around the forthcoming 25th anniversary of the disaster, but that news reports are not evidence in the case.
"It is natural and right that the press will want to report events marking the anniversary and the inquests in the context of the anniversary. It would be unrealistic to tell you not to read newspapers or watch the news on television," Lord Justice Goldring said.
"The media know that these inquests are taking place, they know that nothing they publish must risk prejudicing the outcome of the inquests. I anticipate therefore that any reporting of the anniversary will be responsible.
"However, remember please, from beginning to end, whatever is said in any report is not evidence in the case."
The inquest will not sit in the week of the anniversary.
Lord Justice Goldring said that witnesses' memories may have faded in the two-and-a-half decades that have passed.
"Because these events happened very nearly 25 years ago, memories will inevitably have faded."
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