Monday 11 December 2017

Ex-police chief in court over Hillsborough deaths

Norman Bettison walks past Jenny Hicks, left, and other friends and family of victims as he arrives at Warrington Magistrates’ Court. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Norman Bettison walks past Jenny Hicks, left, and other friends and family of victims as he arrives at Warrington Magistrates’ Court. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Dean Gray

Former British chief constable Norman Bettison stood in the dock of a courtroom yesterday as a suspect facing criminal charges almost 30 years on from the Hillsborough disaster.

Mr Bettison (61), a former chief constable of West Yorkshire and Merseyside, was flanked by four other men appearing as suspects charged in connection with the 1989 tragedy and its aftermath.

All the defendants faced a media scrum as they arrived at Warrington Magistrates' Court while more than 30 relatives of the 96 Liverpool fans who died sat in the public gallery.

All five were bailed to appear at Preston Crown Court on September 6, following a 25-minute hearing. Reporting restrictions were not lifted.

Mr Bettison, who was a chief inspector for South Yorkshire Police at the time, is charged with four offences of misconduct in a public office, relating to alleged lies he told in accounts of his involvement in the disaster afterwards.

Alongside him were two more former senior officers at the South Yorkshire force, the former force solicitor and the safety officer for the stadium.

Graham Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday Football Club's company secretary and safety officer, is accused of two offences involving the stadium safety certificate and a health and safety offence.

No formal pleas were entered by the defendants.

Peter Metcalf, the solicitor acting for South Yorkshire Police after the disaster, Donald Denton, a former chief superintendent, and Alan Foster, a former detective chief inspector, all face charges of perverting the course of justice relating to changes made to police officers' witness statements taken after the tragedy.

Match commander David Duckenfield faces 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter but will not be formally charged and appear in court until an application to lift a stay imposed after a prosecution in 2000 has been approved by a British High Court judge.

The five were in court for the first time after the UK's Crown Prosecution Service announced in June they would be charged.

The decision came after the second inquest into the disaster last year returned verdicts of unlawful killing of the 96 fans.

They were crushed to death in pens at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough Stadium on April 15, 1989, as the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest began.

Though 96 died there will be no manslaughter prosecution over the death of Anthony Bland, as he died almost four years later, and under the law in 1989 his death is now "out of time" to be prosecuted.

Irish Independent

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