Mon, Oct 15, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Over half Hillsborough dead ‘could have lived’

The Guardian, LONDON

As many as 58 of the victims of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster might have been saved if the emergency services had responded better, far more than estimated by the recent report into the 1989 soccer tragedy.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel said last month that 41 of the 96 Liverpool fans who died could have survived if the response had been quicker, but further analysis of the medical documentation has led to that figure being revised sharply upwards, according to sources close to the families’ campaign for justice.

The news that more than 60 percent of those who died could have lived will intensify pressure on British Attorney General Dominic Grieve to reopen inquests into the tragedy.

During the original inquests, the coroner imposed a 3:15pm cutoff on evidence, creating the erroneous impression that an effective emergency service response could not have saved lives.

However, sources caution that the figure of 58 is not yet definitive and that it could be slightly lowered — medical evidence is still being examined.

A number of the families have recently met with Bill Kirkup, the medical expert from the panel, to discuss the evidence on their loved ones’ deaths. One of Britain’s most prominent pathologists, Nat Cary, is preparing to brief victims’ families individually.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who is due to meet Cary, hopes to learn more about the details surrounding the death of her 18-year-old son, James.

“But it is crucial to everyone involved that the figure of 96 remains the most important. We want them to start quashing the inquest verdicts,” she said.

The development comes as Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, begins to evaluate the 450,000 pages of evidence uncovered by last month’s report to determine whether criminal charges can be brought. The involvement of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) brings the prospect of manslaughter charges against senior police officers, the board of Sheffield Wednesday (the host soccer club) and Football Association officials over the failures that led to the deaths.

Meanwhile, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched Britain’s largest ever investigation into police misconduct in connection with the disaster. Up to 200 officers from different forces are facing claims they tried to deflect the blame for the fatal crush.

Lord Falconer, a former lord chancellor, said it was imperative that the IPCC investigation was well-resourced and had “high quality investigators.”

“This is a real test for the IPCC,” he said. “It has to be clear that the motive is to get to the truth, rather than look after their own, to get rid of the taint of corruption that hangs over the last police inquiry.”

The chief constable of South Yorkshire police, David Crompton, is set to appear before lawmakers on the Home Affairs Select Committee today to answer questions on Hillsborough.

Sir Norman Bettison, the chief constable of West Yorkshire police — an inspector in South Yorkshire at the time of the disaster — is already facing demands from a Liverpool lawmaker, Maria Eagle, that he be suspended.

The families are also keen that the match commander on the day, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, should not escape possible criminal charges.

Duckenfield opened the Leppings Lane gate that led to the fatal crushing, but then claimed supporters had forced open the gate themselves.

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