Hillsborough Disaster Investigations Sees Six People Charged After Police Probe

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield charged with manslaughter.

Six people will be prosecuted following a probe into the handling of the Hillsborough disaster which resulted in 96 deaths, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced.

On Wednesday morning the CPS announced that the group would face charges included manslaughter and misconduct in a public office.

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield has been charged with the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 of the 96 disaster victims, the Crown Prosecution Service said. He cannot be charged with the manslaughter of Anthony Bland, the 96th casualty of the disaster, because he died four years after the tragedy.

Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son Christopher was killed in the tragedy told Sky News of the decision to charge Duckenfield: “Everybody applauded when it was announced that the most senior police officer on that particular day will have charges presented to him.

“I was frightened we were going to be let down again. We have been smacked in the face on a number of occasions. The families have acted with the utmost of dignity.”

<strong>Former Chief Superintendent of South Yorkshire Police David Duckenfield has been charged with manslaughter</strong>
Former Chief Superintendent of South Yorkshire Police David Duckenfield has been charged with manslaughter
Andrew Yates / Reuters

Margaret Aspinall, the chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said the CPS decision was the beginning of the end for the families affected by the tragedy: “Every time we have been knocked down we have been determined to come back stronger.”

On charging Duckfield, the CPS 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.”

The other five charged included, three policeman.

Former chief superintendent Donald Denton of South Yorkshire Police is to be prosecuted along with his colleague, former detective chief inspector, Alan Foster.

Norman Bettison, a former officer with South Yorkshire Police and subsequently chief constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire Police, has also been charged. Bettison has said he is “disappointed to be charged” and will “vigorously defend” his innocence.

The remaining two accused are, Graham Henry MacKrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday Football Club’s company secretary and safety officer, and Peter Metcalf, the solicitor acting for the South Yorkshire Police during subsequent inquiries were also charged.

Speaking at the start of Prime Minister’s Questions Theresa May said that today would be a “day of mixed emotions” for the families of the victims.

“The House will understand that I cannot say anything further on matters that are now subject to a criminal prosecution.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the decision by the CPS and credited the incredible work done by the Hillsborough Justice campaign” in fighting for justice.

“I think we should pay tribute to all of those who spent a great deal of time trying to ensure there was justice for those who died at Hillsborough.”

The defendants, other than Duckenfield, will appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 9 August 2017. The police need to apply to the High Court to remove a stay, in place since 1995, to take him to court.

The six accused are charged with:

David Duckenfield has been charged with the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 of the 96 Liverpool FC fans who died at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989

Sir Norman Bettison is accused of four counts of misconduct in public office.

Former South Yorkshire Police officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster, as well as force solicitor Peter Metcalf, are charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of justice.

Former Sheffield Wednesday secretary Graham Mackrell is charged with three offences relating to health and safety at sports grounds.

CPS head Sue Hemming has said the IPCC has referred two further suspects which are “unconnected to the matters sent to us in January”. Those cases are still being reviewed, she said, and a decision will be announced in due course.

Hemming said a further file from the IPCC on the conduct of West Midlands Police still needs “additional investigative work”.

Hemmings says that in relation to six other police officers, charges were not brought because of “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.

The CPS also decided not to bring charges against three ambulance service employees.

Families of the victims killed at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final gathered in Warrington earlier today be informed of the decisions by Sue Hemming, Crown Prosecution Service 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.

Of these, 15 suspects related to Operation Resolve’s investigation into the causes of the disaster.

A further eight individuals related to the IPCC’s independent investigation into both South Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police and the alleged cover-up of the disaster.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said before the decision that is was “going to be a day of mixed emotions for the families and we have had so many of them”.

She added: “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.

<strong>Fans try to get away from the crush of the crowd during the Hillsborough disaster in 1989</strong>
Fans try to get away from the crush of the crowd during the Hillsborough disaster in 1989

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.

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

Earlier today the families of some of the victims tweeted about their 28 years fight for justice and their hope they would “get the results we want today”.

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.”