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Match Commander Among Six Facing Charges Over Hillsborough Disaster

Six people including the match commander David Duckenfield and former chief constable Sir Norman Bettison are facing prosecution over the Hillsborough disaster, nearly 30 years after Liverpool supporters were crushed at Sheffield Wednesday's ground during a cup tie.

Duckenfield, a former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent and match commander on the day, is facing charges of the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 of the 96 disaster victims, while Bettison has been charged with four offences of misconduct in public office.

There will be no manslaughter prosecution over the death of the 96th casualty, Anthony Bland, as he died almost four years later, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

An inquest jury last year ruled the victims had been unlawfully killed in a tragedy caused by police blunders.

Barry Devonside, whose son Christopher, 18, was among the 96, 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."

Speaking in the Commons after the charges were announced, Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the decision by the CPS and praised the "absolutely exemplary" campaign by the Hillsborough families and others.

Four others charged are:

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

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

:: Graham Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday's company secretary and safety officer at the time, charged with two offences of contravening a term of condition of a safety certificate, and one offence of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of other persons.

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

All the defendants, except Duckenfield who has not yet been formally charged, will appear at Warrington Magistrates' Court on August 9.

New inquests into the 96 deaths began in 2014, after the original inquest verdicts of accidental death - concluded in 1991 - were quashed by the High Court.

Evelyn McDonnell Mills, whose brother Peter McDonnell, 21, died in the disaster, said: "I'm really happy that we've finally got some charges after 28 years.

"I'm just sad that my brother Gerard, who campaigned for years, died in the first year of the new inquests and never got to see justice."

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

She added: "Additionally, just this week, the IPCC has referred two further suspects which are unconnected to the matters sent to us in January; these files are subject to ongoing consideration by the CPS. We will announce our decisions in due course.

"The suspects referred to the CPS included individuals and organisations.

"Following these thorough investigations and our careful review of the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, I have decided there is sufficient evidence to charge six individuals with criminal offences."

Assistant Commissioner Rob Beckley, in charge of Operation Resolve, said the decision to prosecute came "after the most detailed and substantial investigation there has ever been into the Hillsborough disaster".

He said: "Our inquiry looked at all aspects of the event, including the planning and the preparation for the game, the safety of the stadium and the response by the emergency services.

"Our inquiry has seen over 17,000 lines of inquiry and we have taken statements off over 11,000 people, from police officers, spectators, emergency personnel and officials from different organisations."

At Prime Minister's Questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "This prosecution, the inquiry and this development only happened because of the incredible work done by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram and other colleagues around this House.

"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."

Chief Superintendent Tim Jackson, national secretary of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, said: "This has been a long and extremely difficult process for everyone involved and our thoughts and sympathies are with the families of those who died in this tragedy.

"Both this association, and those to whom we have provided support, have co-operated fully with the legal process.

"As charges have been brought we will make no further comment."