Monday 24 July 2017

Criminal charges against six over Hillsborough - police match chief Duckenfield charged with manslaughter of 95

Liverpool fans desperately try to escape the crush at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989. Photo: PA
Liverpool fans desperately try to escape the crush at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989. Photo: PA
Sue Hemming, head of special crime and counter-terror at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) arrives at Parr Hall where the CPS will announce its Hillsborough disaster charging decision, in Warrington, Britain June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andy Yates
Criminal charges have finally been handed down to those who oversaw the Hillsborough disaster and subsequent cover-up
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

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.

Sue Hemming, head of the special crime and counter-terrorism division, said 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 and Bettison is accused of four counts of misconduct in public office.

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Former chief superintendent David Duckenfield. Photo: Reuters

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

Ms Hemming 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 subjects 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."

All the defendants, except Duckenfield, will appear at Warrington Magistrates' Court on August 8.

Duckenfield was not at home at his bungalow in Ferndown, Dorset, when the charges were announced.

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

The full list of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster (top row left to right) Adam Edward Spearritt, Alan Johnston, Alan McGlone, Andrew Mark Brookes, Anthony Bland, Anthony Peter Kelly, Arthur Horrocks, Barry Glover, Barry Sidney Bennett, Brian Christopher Mathews, Carl William Rimmer, Carl Brown, (second row left to right) Carl Darren Hewitt, Carl David Lewis, Christine Anne Jones, Christopher James Traynor, Christopher Barry Devonside, Christopher Edwards, Colin Wafer, Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton, Colin Mark Ashcroft, David William Birtle, David George Rimmer, David Hawley, (third row left to right) David John Benson, David Leonard Thomas, David William Mather, Derrick George Godwin, Eric Hankin, Eric George Hughes, Francis Joseph McAllister, Gary Christopher Church, Gary Collins, Gary Harrison, Gary Philip Jones, Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron, (fourth row left to right) Gordon Rodney Horn, Graham John Roberts, Graham John Wright, Henry Charles Rogers, Henry Thomas Burke, Ian David Whelan, Ian Thomas Glover, Inger Shah, James Gary Aspinall, James Philip Delaney, James Robert Hennessy, John Alfred Anderson, (fifth row left to right) John McBrien, Jonathon Owens, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, Joseph Clark, Joseph Daniel McCarthy, Keith McGrath, Kester Roger Marcus Ball, Kevin Daniel Williams, Kevin Tyrrell, Lee Nicol, Marian Hazel McCabe, Martin Kevin Traynor, (sixth row left to right) Martin Kenneth Wild, Michael David Kelly, Nicholas Peter Joynes, Nicholas Michael Hewitt, Patrick John Thompson, Paula Ann Smith, Paul Anthony Hewitson, Paul David Brady, Paul Brian Murray, Paul Clark, Paul William Carlile, Peter Andrew Harrison, (seventh row left to right) Peter Andrew Burkett, Peter Francis Tootle, Peter McDonnell, Peter Reuben Thompson, Philip Hammond, Philip John Steele, Raymond Thomas Chapman, Richard Jones, Roy Harry Hamilton, Sarah Louise Hicks, Simon Bell, Stephen Paul Copoc, (bottom row left to right) Stephen Francis Harrison; Stephen Francis O'Neill; Steven J
The full list of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster (top row left to right) Adam Edward Spearritt, Alan Johnston, Alan McGlone, Andrew Mark Brookes, Anthony Bland, Anthony Peter Kelly, Arthur Horrocks, Barry Glover, Barry Sidney Bennett, Brian Christopher Mathews, Carl William Rimmer, Carl Brown, (second row left to right) Carl Darren Hewitt, Carl David Lewis, Christine Anne Jones, Christopher James Traynor, Christopher Barry Devonside, Christopher Edwards, Colin Wafer, Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton, Colin Mark Ashcroft, David William Birtle, David George Rimmer, David Hawley, (third row left to right) David John Benson, David Leonard Thomas, David William Mather, Derrick George Godwin, Eric Hankin, Eric George Hughes, Francis Joseph McAllister, Gary Christopher Church, Gary Collins, Gary Harrison, Gary Philip Jones, Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron, (fourth row left to right) Gordon Rodney Horn, Graham John Roberts, Graham John Wright, Henry Charles Rogers, Henry Thomas Burke, Ian David Whelan, Ian Thomas Glover, Inger Shah, James Gary Aspinall, James Philip Delaney, James Robert Hennessy, John Alfred Anderson, (fifth row left to right) John McBrien, Jonathon Owens, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, Joseph Clark, Joseph Daniel McCarthy, Keith McGrath, Kester Roger Marcus Ball, Kevin Daniel Williams, Kevin Tyrrell, Lee Nicol, Marian Hazel McCabe, Martin Kevin Traynor, (sixth row left to right) Martin Kenneth Wild, Michael David Kelly, Nicholas Peter Joynes, Nicholas Michael Hewitt, Patrick John Thompson, Paula Ann Smith, Paul Anthony Hewitson, Paul David Brady, Paul Brian Murray, Paul Clark, Paul William Carlile, Peter Andrew Harrison, (seventh row left to right) Peter Andrew Burkett, Peter Francis Tootle, Peter McDonnell, Peter Reuben Thompson, Philip Hammond, Philip John Steele, Raymond Thomas Chapman, Richard Jones, Roy Harry Hamilton, Sarah Louise Hicks, Simon Bell, Stephen Paul Copoc, (bottom row left to right) Stephen Francis Harrison; Stephen Francis O'Neill; Steven J

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

A spokesman for Sheffield Wednesday said the club had no comment to make.

Families of the 96 men, women and children killed at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final gathered in Warrington on Wednesday morning to hear the announcement.

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.

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. It also found there were dangerous features in the stadium design.

The original inquest in 1991 ruled that the deaths were accidental, but those verdicts were quashed following an independent report that concluded a major cover-up had taken place to shift the blame for the disaster onto the victims.

Current South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson said: "Decisions concerning the bringing of criminal charges are rightly for the CPS.

"Given that criminal proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further for fear of jeopardising this important process in any way.

"In all of this however, our thoughts are with the Hillsborough families as we reflect on the appalling tragedy that is Hillsborough with the loss of so many innocent lives".

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.

"From our inquiries we referred 12 individuals and three organisations to the CPS for them to consider whether any of these 15 should face criminal action. It was important to us that the CPS were an arbiter of our investigation, applying independent judgment in relation to possible offences.

"Operation Resolve will now continue to work with the Crown Prosecution Service and counsel as the case moves on to the next stage and we prepare for legal proceedings.

"Our work under the Police Reform Act and the allegations of police misconduct remains ongoing and, whilst the criminal prosecutions are foremost in our mind, the publishing of these reports is a very important task for us as they provide a detailed account of the actions of the police on the day.

"We will continue to meet with families of the bereaved and, where appropriate, support and assist them where possible. It is hugely important for me to stress the need for people to respect the criminal process that awaits us."

IPCC deputy chairman Rachel Cerfontyne said: "The CPS has announced charging decisions on six of the eight suspects formally referred by the IPCC in January this year. We have also referred a further two individuals.

"We will be working closely with the CPS on the prosecution case and will provide any further assistance necessary while decisions on the remaining IPCC files are under consideration.

"Following criminal proceedings, we will consider whether any former police officers, including all of those referred to the CPS for a charging decision, would have had cases to answer for misconduct if they were still serving. The evidence supporting these findings will be set out in the final investigation report."

In the Commons, Theresa May told MPs: "I know from working closely with the families when I was home secretary that this will be a day of mixed emotions for them, but the House will understand that I cannot say anything further on matters that are now subject to a criminal prosecution."

The Prime Minister welcomed the decision by the CPS and praised the "absolutely exemplary" campaign by the Hillsborough families and others.

She said: "Obviously today will be a day of really mixed emotions for them, but I welcome the fact that charging decisions have been taken. I think that is an important step forward."

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."

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."

Ian Lewis, the partner at JMW Solicitors who is representing Duckenfield and Denton, said: "In light of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to commence criminal proceedings against David Duckenfield and Donald Denton, it would be inappropriate for me as their solicitor or for my clients themselves to make any comment."

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."

South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Alan Billings said the modern-day force understands its operations must focus on victims.

In a statement he said: "Today's announcement represents another milestone in the long history of the Hillsborough investigations.

"The start of criminal proceedings against these individuals will hopefully lead to a measure of closure for the family members who have experienced a long and traumatic process in their quest for justice and those officers who have lived under the shadow of the disaster for 28 years.

"I am reassured that South Yorkshire Police today understand very well that their present and future conduct has to be rooted in a commitment to uphold the values of public service and to putting the victim at the centre of their operation."

Meanwhile, former chief constable Sir Norman Bettison, who faces four allegations of misconduct in public office over the Hillsborough disaster, has said he is "disappointed to be charged" and will "vigorously defend" his innocence.  

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