Reuters

David Duckenfield, Norman Bettison and four others charged over Hillsborough disaster

Duckenfield, Bettison and four others charged over Hillsborough disaster

28/06/2017 at 10:57Updated 28/06/2017 at 17:06

The Crown Prosecution Service has announced that six people have been charged with criminal offences over the Hillsborough disaster which claimed 96 lives in 1989.

David Duckenfield, the match commander for South Yorkshire Police on the day, has been charged with committing manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 of the 96 victims.

Norman Bettison, another former officer with South Yorkshire Police, has been charged with four counts of misconduct in public office over allegations relating to his actions after the disaster.

The CPS said no charges had been brought against Sheffield Wednesday, the Football Association or the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service.

The Crown Prosecution Service met with families of the victims and relayed its decision at 11:00am. The defendants, aside from Duckenfield, will appear at Warrington Magistrates' Court on August 9.

Ninety-six supporters died after a crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium.

Relatives of the victims, who were told of the decision in private shortly before it was made public, embraced outside the building where they were briefed in Warrington, northern England.

Barry Devonside, who survived the stadium crush but lost his 18-year-old son Christopher, pumped his fist as he emerged from the building. He was visibly emotional as he told reporters how he had felt going into the briefing.

"I was frightened, absolutely frightened that we were going to be let down again. It's so very hard to fight for justice over the period of time that the families have had to fight."

"And we've been smacked in the face on a number of occasions," he said, referring to a series of flawed investigations in the past.

In 2016, a jury at the Hillsborough inquests found the 96 were unlawfully killed, after an original verdict of accidental death in 1991 had been overturned in 2012. The jury also decided that supporters had played no role whatsoever in the disaster.

In January 2017, the CPS was passed files on 23 people and organisations following two criminal investigations - one dealing with the events leading up to the disaster, and another, through the Independent Police Complaints Commission, looking at the conduct of South Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police with regards to allegations of a resulting cover-up.

The full charges

The six people who have been charged are as follows:

  • David Duckenfield, who was the Match Commander for South Yorkshire Police on the day of the disaster has been charged with the manslaughter of 95 people.
  • Graham Henry Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday Football Club's company secretary and safety officer at the time of the disaster in 1989, has been charged with breaching the teams of the ground’s safety certificate and failing to take reasonable care under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
  • Peter Metcalf, the solicitor acting for the South Yorkshire Police during the Taylor Inquiry and the first inquests, has been charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice relating to material changes made to witness statements.
  • Former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton of South Yorkshire Police is charged similarly to Peter Metcalf.
  • Former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster of South Yorkshire Police is charged similarly to Peter Metcalf and Donald Denton.
  • Norman Bettison, another former officer with South Yorkshire Police, has been charged with four counts of misconduct in public office relating to telling alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough and the culpability of fans.

Duckenfield and the 96th victim

Former Chief Superintendent of South Yorkshire Police David Duckenfield arrives to give evidence to the Hillsborough Inquest in Warrington, northern England March 10, 2015 (Reuters)

Former Chief Superintendent of South Yorkshire Police David Duckenfield arrives to give evidence to the Hillsborough Inquest in Warrington, northern England March 10, 2015 (Reuters)Reuters

On Duckenfield, Sue Hemming, Head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division said in her statement:

" 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."

Explaining why they could not bring charges for the death of the 96th victim, Hemming explained:

" 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."

Further more she added that "In order to prosecute this matter, the CPS will need to successfully apply to remove the stay imposed by a senior judge (now retired) at the end of the 1999 private prosecution when David Duckenfield was prosecuted for two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence previously. We will be applying to a High Court Judge to lift the stay and order that the case can proceed on a voluntary bill of indictment."

Family members of victims of the Hillsborough react outside Parr Hall in Warrington

Family members of victims of the Hillsborough react outside Parr Hall in WarringtonReuters

Bettison's 'abuse of the public’s trust'

On Bettison, Hemming said:

" Given his role as a senior police officer, we will ask the jury to find that this was misconduct of such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder."

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."

Who wasn't charged

Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, of whom Hemming said:

" I have decided not to prosecute the company which was the legal entity of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club at the time as it only now exists on paper. There are no directors or others listed who form the company and therefore no-one who can give instructions to answer any criminal charge or enter a plea. Even if the company were to be prosecuted and found guilty in these circumstances, there could be no penalty as it does not have any assets with which to pay a fine."

The South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service:

" For legal reasons, we cannot prosecute the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service and there is insufficient evidence of a criminal offence against the two most senior employees referred for consideration. There is, however, sufficient evidence of a health and safety breach against one junior ambulance employee, although it is 'non causative' which means that it cannot be directly connected to any particular death. As we cannot prosecute the ambulance service or the more senior employees and the offence carries a maximum penalty of a fine, I have decided that it is not in the public interest to prosecute the junior officer after this significant period of time when the likely outcome would be a nominal penalty."

The Football Association:

" Finally, in relation to Operation Resolve, the Football Association (FA) was also considered in relation to the day's events. Its conduct was assessed against the Safety of Sports Grounds Act and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. While I considered that it was a 'responsible person' for the purposes of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act, there was insufficient evidence to establish that any breach of the safety certificate could be placed within the responsibility of that organisation, and thereby raise a burden on it as a defendant to establish a due diligence. Equally, for the purposes of the Health and Safety at Work Act, the evidence did not establish that, in the conduct of its undertaking, the FA contributed to a material risk to safety. As a result, in each instance, there was not a realistic prospect of a conviction against them. In the particular circumstances, it also followed that there was insufficient evidence against any employee of that organisation under either Act."
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