Tuesday 12 December 2017

Six face criminal charges over Hillsborough

Families welcome decision as police match commander accused of manslaughter of 95

Supporters are crushed against the barrier before the 1989 FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield.
Supporters are crushed against the barrier before the 1989 FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield.

Martin Evans and Danny Boyle

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield, former chief constable Norman Bettison and four other people are to be prosecuted over offences relating to the Hillsborough stadium disaster which killed 96 football fans.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that Duckenfield is to be 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 has been charged with four counts of misconduct in public office.

Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group listens to Trevor Hicks, whose two daughters died, after yesterday’s announcement. Photo: Getty
Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group listens to Trevor Hicks, whose two daughters died, after yesterday’s announcement. Photo: Getty

Sue Hemming, head of the CPS's special crime division, said 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 also charged with three offences relating to health and safety at the sports grounds.

Families of the victims gathered in Warrington yesterday morning to hear the announcement, which was released to the public in a 3,780-word statement.

In the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the decision by the CPS and praised the "absolutely exemplary" campaign by the Hillsborough families and others.

Mrs May said: "I know from working closely with the families when I was Home Secretary that this will be a day of mixed emotions for them. I welcome the fact that charging decisions have been taken. I think that is an important step forward. But the House will understand that I cannot say anything further on matters that are now subject to a criminal prosecution."

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

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 on behalf of some of the families, lawyer Marcia Willis-Stewart said: "The Hillsborough families have waited 28 years for justice.

"Some of the truth was exposed by the independent panel and some by the inquest jury on April 26, 2016. Now we await the results from the long overdue process of accountability - accountability being key and at the heart.

"The families are sensitive to the issues of fairness and due process and no-one wishes to prejudice or to jeopardise it.

"There are of course various legal options open to the families where decisions have been made not to prosecute, in the form of the victim and judicial review process. As I said, 28 years for justice, now is the time for accountability."

Hillsborough Family Support Group chairwoman Margaret Aspinall has said it is the "beginning of the end". She said: "Every time we have been knocked down, we have been determined to come back stronger."

Read more: How a series of fatal errors by those in charge turned a day of football into a catastrophe

Trevor Hicks, whose daughters Sarah and Vicki died in the disaster at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, said: "This is a success for society at large, not just for us."

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."

Prosecutor 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 who has not yet been formally charged, will appear at Warrington Magistrates' Court on August 8.

Operation Resolve, which investigated the causes of the disaster, and the IPCC had 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. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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