Hillsborough families applauded news ex-police chief among six to be charged

Hillsborough families applauded news ex-police chief among six to be charged

Update 5.24pm Families of 96 Hillsborough victims broke into applause as they were told match commander David Duckenfield and five others are to face criminal charges nearly 30 years on from the death of their loved ones.

Duckenfield, 72, along with former chief constable Sir Norman Bettison, 61, two other senior ex-South Yorkshire Police officers, the then force solicitor and the safety boss of Sheffield Wednesday FC, all will be prosecuted, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of Hillsborough Family Support Group, described today's announcement to the families as the "beginning of the end".

Mrs Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son, James, died in the tragedy, said: "No-one should have to go through what the families have gone through for 28 years to try and get to the truth and to get accountability.

"I think now what has been achieved today will change things for the good of this nation and I think that's the legacy of our 96, that they will have left behind."

Match commander Duckenfield, a former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent and officer in charge on the day, faces 95 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence, while Bettison, a chief inspector at the time of the disaster, faces four offences of misconduct in a public office over alleged lies in accounts of his involvement in the 1989 disaster.

Hillsborough families applauded news ex-police chief among six to be charged

In a statement, Bettison said: "I am disappointed to be charged with misconduct in a public office. The charge is not in relation to my actions around the time of the disaster but in relation to comments I made years afterwards.

"I will vigorously defend my innocence as I have been doing for nearly five years."

The Football Association, South Yorkshire Ambulance Service and Sheffield Wednesday FC and its architects and safety consultants will not be prosecuted, the CPS said.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans were crushed to death in pens at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough Stadium on April 15 1989, as their FA Cup semi-final cup-tie began against Nottingham Forest.

After decades of campaigning by relatives, an inquest jury last year ruled the victims had been unlawfully killed in a tragedy caused by police blunders, paving the way for prosecutions, after the quashing of original inquest verdicts in 1991 of accidental death.

Relatives of the 96 were today told the six individuals will be charged by lawyers at a special meeting in Warrington following a legal fight spanning three decades.

Lawyers have warned of possible consequences of commenting on the decision for fear of prejudicing a fair trial for the accused, now charges have been brought.

Barry Devonside, whose son Christopher, 18, was among the 96 killed, pumped his fist as he emerged from the meeting with the lawyers and other relatives.

He said: "Everybody applauded when it was announced that the most senior police officer on that particular day will have charges presented to him."

Hillsborough families applauded news ex-police chief among six to be charged

Trevor Hicks, whose daughters Sarah and Vicki died in the disaster, said: "This is a success for society at large, not just for us.

"There will be six people facing criminal charges who might not have done if we hadn't have been resilient and all stuck together and fought this long fight."

See the full list of charges below:

  • Mr Duckenfield, 72, faces manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 men, women and children
  • Sir Norman, 61, faces four charges of misconduct in a public office relating to alleged lies he told in the aftermath about the culpability of fans
  • Graham Mackrell, former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary, will be accused of breaching Health and Safety and Safety at Sports Ground legislation
  • Peter Metcalf, who was a solicitor acting for SYP, is charged with perverting the course of Justice, relating to changes to witness statements
  • Former Ch Supt Donald Denton and former Det Ch Insp Alan Foster are accused of perverting the course of justice

There will be no manslaughter prosecution over the death of the 96th casualty, Anthony Bland, as he died almost four years later, and under the law in 1989 when the alleged offence was committed, his death is now "out of time" to be prosecuted.

At Prime Minister's Questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "I think we should pay tribute to all of those that spent a great deal of time trying to ensure there was justice for those that died at Hillsborough."

Announcing the charges, Sue Hemming, head of the special crime and counter-terrorism division at the CPS, said there was a further file from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on the conduct of West Midlands Police, which still needs "additional investigative work".

Ian Lewis, solicitor for Duckenfield and Denton, said it would be "inappropriate" to comment.

Duckenfield has not been formally charged yet as the CPS will need to apply to a High Court judge to lift a stay.

The stay, halting further legal proceedings, was imposed by a now-retired judge after Duckenfield faced trial for two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence in a private prosecution brought by families in 1999.

A date for his court appearance is yet to be fixed.

The others will appear at Warrington Magistrates' Court on August 9.

In a joint statement, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham paid tribute to the "extraordinary determination and dignity" of the Hillsborough families.

They said: "Without seeking to prejudge what will now happen, it is surely right that there will now be accountability for what happened on the day and for the cover-up that followed.

"It is all the families have ever wanted and it is what we have all campaigned for. Justice will now at long last take its course.

"It has been our privilege to have played a small part in supporting the families and survivors on this journey and belatedly trying to put right the many failings of the past.

"All the credit and all our admiration goes to those who refused to be silent, refused to go away and who never stopped fighting for their loved ones when those in power simply did not want to listen."

Earlier: Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield, former chief constable Sir Norman Bettison and four other individuals have been charged with offences relating to the Hillsborough disaster, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.

Mr Duckenfield, who was the match commander on the day of the disaster, is charged with the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 men, women and children.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it is alleged that 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".

It said it was unable to charge him with the manslaughter of Tony Bland - the 96th casualty - because he died almost four years later. The law as it applied then meant that no-one could be guilty of murder if the death occurred more than a year and a day later than the date when the injuries were caused. But it added that it will be applying to the High Court to allow the case to proceed.

Former Merseyside and West Yorkshire chief constable Sir Norman Bettison is charged with four offences of misconduct in public office.

Hillsborough families applauded news ex-police chief among six to be charged

The CPS said these relate to telling alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough and the culpability of fans.

Given his role as a senior police officer, prosecutors 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, the CPS said.

Former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent Donald Denton is charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice relating to material changes made to witness statements.

Liverpool fans trying to escape during the Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield
Liverpool fans trying to escape during the Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield

It is alleged that Denton oversaw the process of amending the statements and, in doing so, he did acts that had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice, the CPS said.

Former South Yorkshire Police detective chief inspector Alan Foster is also charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice relating to material changes made to witness statements.

The CPS said Foster was central to the process of changing the statements and took action to do so.

Graham Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday’s company secretary and safety officer at the time, is charged with two offences of contravening a term of condition of a safety certificate contrary to the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975.

He is also charged with one offence of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of other persons who may have been affected by his acts or omissions at work under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The CPS said these offences relate to alleged failures to carry out his duties as required.

Peter Metcalf, who was the solicitor acting for South Yorkshire Police during the Taylor Inquiry and the first inquests, is charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice relating to material changes made to witness statements.

Victims of the Hillsborough disaster
Victims of the Hillsborough disaster

The CPS said Metcalf was instructed by Municipal Mutual Insurance to represent the interests of the police force at the Taylor Inquiry and in any civil litigation that might result from the Hillsborough disaster.

He reviewed the accounts provided by the officers and made suggestions for alterations, deletions and amendments, which prosecutors allege were directly relevant to an official letter issued by the Taylor Inquiry and for which there appears to be no justification.

Earlier: The Crown Prosecution Service will today announce its decisions on charges relating to the Hillsborough disaster.

Families of the 96 men, women and children killed at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final will gather in Warrington to be informed of the decisions by Sue Hemming, CPS head of special crime and counter-terrorism division.

Operation Resolve, which investigated the causes of the disaster, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) passed files of evidence relating to 23 suspects, including individuals and organisations, to the CPS earlier this year.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: "It is going to be a day of mixed emotions for the families and we have had so many of them.

"Whatever happens, I still think 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."

Last year, new inquests found the 96 were unlawfully killed in the disaster, which happened at the match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest.

The jury also identified errors in the police planning and response, the actions of commanding officers, the safety certification of the ground, the management of the stadium by Sheffield Wednesday FC and the response by the ambulance service.

Hillsborough families applauded news ex-police chief among six to be charged

It also found there were dangerous features in the stadium design and structural engineers Eastwood and Partners could have done more.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said it would be a "monumental day in the fight for justice".

He said: "It is a day that many thought would never come and a day that, on more than one occasion, seemed impossible.

"The uncompromising determination and fight from the families and campaigners over the last 28 years has been an example to the rest of the country that sometimes, the impossible is achievable."

He said there was still "a way to go" before justice was achieved.

He said: "We have to allow that process to happen and trust that those responsible will be held accountable for their actions."

- PA

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