More than two years after the Hillsborough inquest began, the jury has been sent out to consider its verdict, as reported by the Guardian.
The inquest is designed to decide whether or not the 96 Liverpool fans who died during an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough in 1989 were killed unlawfully.
A jury made up of seven women and three men will be charged with the task of answering 14 different questions and come to an agreement on the conclusion. Any verdict must be unanimous.
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The coroner, Sir John Goldring, directed the jury to reach a verdict of unlawful killing and advised them to work together, urging them to discuss the evidence in a "civilised manner".
He said: “Juries are a random selection of members of the public of all ages and backgrounds. They have to work together in the interests of justice. We are conscious that you have devoted a very large part of your lives to these inquests.
“It requires you to make your decisions together. It requires you to put to one side any personal issues which can sometimes arise.”
The jury will consider whether or not the South Yorkshire police officer in charge on the day, Ch Supt David Duckenfield, “was responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence of those 96 people" and that his actions "were not those which a reasonably careful and competent match commander would have taken in 1989 so that the 96 people could attend, watch and depart reasonably safely”.
Duckenfield's actions must be deemed as "so bad, having regard to the risk of death involved, as in your view to amount to a criminal act or omission” if gross negligence is to be proved.
It was Duckenfield who order the large exit gate C to be opened, leading to the relief of the crush outside the ground but contributed to the overcrowding inside it.
With 276 days of evidence, the inquests have been the longest case ever heard by a jury in British legal history with significant delays caused by illness among the jury.
One of the 14 questions will be on their verdict as to whether the South Yorkshire police attributed to the tragedy by poor planning. They will also have to decide whether they were negligent in their policing of the crowd on Leppings Lane where dangerous levels of congestion developed.
Ground safety & fan behaviour
The questions will also ask jurors to decide whether the Hillsborough ground's design was “dangerous and defective” and whether the behaviour of fans on the approach to the ground “caused or contributed to the dangerous situation”.
It is believed a number of Liverpool fans did not have tickets for the game and Goldring has asked jurors to consider whether some fans “behaved in a way which was unusually forceful or resistant to police control”.
However, Goldring insisted that there was no suggestion of unruly behaviour and no sign of heavy drinking such as some police officers recounted”.
“Nobody suggests there was anything wrong or unreasonable about waiting outside the entrance turnstiles to see a football match or having a drink before a football match,” he said.
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