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Hillsborough inquests jury down to nine after woman discharged

Published 07/04/2016

The jury in the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at the Hillsborough disaster has retired to consider its verdicts, more than two years since the hearings began
The jury in the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at the Hillsborough disaster has retired to consider its verdicts, more than two years since the hearings began

A juror at the Hillsborough inquests has been discharged, reducing the jury to nine.

The woman was discharged on a "medical basis" on Thursday, just a day after the jury first went out to begin considering its verdicts following more than two years of hearings into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans in the 1989 football stadium disaster.

The jury began with a panel of 11 in March 2014, but one man was also discharged on medical grounds in February 2015.

Coroner Sir John Goldring told the remaining jurors on Thursday morning that nine of them would now consider the case.

He told them: "In the light of all the information I have had, I have decided to discharge juror number four from continuing to serve on the jury. She is not here now, she has formally been discharged, so you will continue the case without her.

"The information I have had included a medical basis for her to be discharged.

"I should make this plain so that you will know, everyone, including the families, is aware of all the detail of what's happened."

He added: "We are conscious how difficult this has been for you. It's not, if I may say so, been entirely easy for me or us.

"I'm confident you can put it all behind you now and deal with what is, after all, your real task, and that's making your decisions."

Sir John continued: "Members of the jury, I'm going to ask you now to retire, I'm confident we can put all this behind us and you can deal with the real task. Thank you for your patience, I'm sorry that you got, to some degree, sidetracked."

The remaining six women and three men, who first retired at 2.05pm on Wednesday, are considering 14 key questions set out by Sir John in a 33-page questionnaire, including determining if police match commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield is responsible for the unlawful killing of the fans by gross negligence manslaughter.

Under rules governing inquests, hearings can continue with as few as seven jurors.

The inquests into Britain's worst sporting disaster first began on March 31 2014, in a specially built courtroom in Warrington, Cheshire.

Dozens of relatives of the 96 victims have attended each of the more than 300 days the court has sat at Bridgewater Place on the town's Birchwood Park business park.

On Wednesday, Sir John concluded his summing-up of the evidence which he first began in January, before making his final remarks to the jurors, telling them to put emotion aside and consider the case dispassionately on the evidence.

The Hillsborough tragedy unfolded on April 15 1989 during Liverpool's FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest as thousands of fans were crushed on Sheffield Wednesday's Leppings Lane terrace.

Mr Duckenfield gave the order at 2.52pm to open exit Gate C in Leppings Lane, allowing around 2,000 fans to flood into the already packed central pens behind the goal.

Jurors have heard months of evidence from more than 800 witnesses on topics including stadium safety, match planning, the events of the day, the emergency response and evidence gathering by police after the disaster.

Sir John told them they would have to resolve "conflicts" of evidence they have heard between what Liverpool fans said and the accounts of police officers critical of them.

The coroner also told them they would have to consider the way police statements were taken, reviewed and sometimes amended in what families claim was an attempt to mould the evidence and protect the South Yorkshire force.

The 1991 verdicts from the original inquests were quashed following the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel report.

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