CPS brings proceedings against six people

DAVID Duckenfield, the man in charge of policing on the day of the Hillsborough tragedy, and former Merseyside Chief Constable Norman Bettison are among six people to face criminal charges relating to the disaster, the Crown Prosecution Service announced today.

Duckenfield will face manslaughter charges and Bettison four counts of misconduct in public office.

Families of the Hillsborough victims gathered in Parr Hall, Warrington, to be told of the decisions ahead of a public announcement.

In total four police officers, a solicitor and the man in charge of safety at the ground on the day of the disaster at Sheffield Wednesday FC, 28 years ago, will be taken to court.

Events at the Hillsborough Football Stadium, on 15th April, 1989, when Liverpool met Nottingham Forest in a cup semi final game, sparked one of the biggest, longest running justice campaigns ever seen in Britain, leading to a second inquest which ruled that 96 LFC fans had been unlawfully killed.

  • Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who was South Yorkshire Police’s match commander on the day, is to face a charge of manslaughter of 95 of the fans by gross negligence.
  • Norman Bettison, a former senior officer with the same force and subsequently Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire Police, is to be charged with four offences of misconduct in public office. They relate to alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough and the accountability of fans.
  • Former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton and former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster will be charged with perverting the course of justice.
  • Two civilians, Graham Henry Mackrell, Sheffield Wednesday’s company secretary and safety officer at the time, and Peter Metcalf, the solicitor acting for South Yorkshire Police during an inquiry into the disaster as well as the first inquests, will also face charges. The former will be accused of breaching Health and Safety and Safety at Sports Ground legislation. The latter is charged with perverting the course of justice, relating to changes to witness statements.

Leading justice campaigner Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son, said: "Hopefully this is the journey to the end, completely, of Hillsborough."

Following the new inquest, which concluded in April, 2016, evidence relating to 23 individuals were referred to the CPS to decide whether charges should be brought.

20170627 David Duckenfield
David Duckenfield was the match commander at Hillsborough on 15th April, 1989

Mrs Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said waiting for the decisions had been "a long, long struggle for everybody”.

Sue Hemming of the CPS said the defendants, other than David Duckenfield, will appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 9th August, 2017.

Bettison is charged with four offences of misconduct in public office.

Ms Hemming said: “Given his role as a senior police officer, we will ask the jury to find that this was misconduct of such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder.”

She said: “We will allege that David Duckenfield’s failures to discharge his personal responsibility were extraordinarily bad and contributed substantially to the deaths of each of those 96 people who so tragically and unnecessarily lost their lives. The offence clearly sets out the basis of those allegations. We are unable to charge the manslaughter of Anthony Bland, the 96th casualty, as he died almost four years later.

“The law as it applied then provided that no person could be guilty of homicide where the death occurred more than a year and a day later than the date when the injuries were caused.

“In order to prosecute this matter, the CPS will need to successfully apply to remove the stay imposed by a senior judge (now retired) at the end of the 1999 private prosecution when David Duckenfield was prosecuted for two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

“We will be applying to a High Court judge to lift the stay and order that the case can proceed on a voluntary bill of indictment.”

She added: “It will be a long road, but the families are determined to never give up. All we want is accountability, nothing more and nothing less.”

The youngest victim to die was aged just 10 and the oldest 67, with 78 of those killed aged 29 or under.

The CPS decision and a full list of charges can be viewed here.

NOTE to readers (via Crown Prosecution Service): Please be advised that "criminal proceedings have now commenced and the defendants have a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings".