High Court quashes Hillsborough inquest verdicts

Original Hillsborough coroner Stefan Popper

Original Hillsborough coroner Stefan Popper

A panel of High Court judges has ruled that new inquests will take place into the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans in the Hillsborough disaster.

The findings of the original coroner, Stefan Popper, were quashed after the judges said new evidence was sufficient to justify rejecting his verdicts.

Dr Popper was widely criticised for his handling of the inquests following the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Sheffield stadium.

He had refused to take evidence collected after 3.15pm – the match having been abandoned at 3.06pm as the extent of crushing in the Leppings Lane stand became apparent.

Dr Popper ruled that the deaths had been accidental, but following an application by Attorney General Dominic Grieve the High Court judges took only around three minutes to quash that verdict and order new inquests.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said there had been a “disappointingly tenacious attempt to blame fans” in the aftermath of the disaster and that the unchallenged evidence considered by Dr Popper 23 years ago was “no longer accepted”.

Dr Popper came to Britain in 1938 at the age of six when his family fled Nazi-occupied Austria. The Poppers had owned the Cafe Herrenhof in Vienna.

It was one of the city’s most popular meeting places during the 1920s and 1930s, and was frequented by artists, writers and philosophers such as Sigmund Freud and the director Fritz Lang. After the cafe was appropriated by the Nazis, the family settled in Britain.

Home Secretary Theresa May also announced that a new police inquiry into the disaster would take place to re-examine exactly what happened on April 15, 1989.

There were calls to strip former Sheffield Hallam Conservative MP Sir Irvine Patnick of his knighthood in September after the publication of an independent panel’s report into the disaster.

He apologised for the part he played in repeating false allegations about the Liverpool fans, saying he was “appalled and shocked to discover the extent of the deceit and cover-up surrounding these events”.

Sir Irvine is vice-president of Sheffield’s Kingfield Synagogue, life president of Sheffield Jewish Representative Council, and a former national vice-chairman of Maccabi.

Last updated: 12:08pm, December 19 2012