Hillsborough disaster: South Yorkshire Police's David Duckenfield among six to be charged over deaths of 96 victims

Former South Yorkshire Police Chief Superintendent faces manslaughter charges

Lizzie Dearden
Wednesday 28 June 2017 11:41

Six people are to face criminal charges over the Hillsborough disaster, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said.

Among them is David Duckenfield, South Yorkshire Police's former Chief Superintendent who acted as match commander on 15 April 1989.

He ordered a gate into the Sheffield football stadium to be opened to ease overcrowding outside, without taking measures to prevent the rush of thousands of fans through a narrow tunnel into central pens.

​Duckenfield will be charged with the manslaughter of 95 people, while Sheffield Wednesday secretary and safety officer Graham Henry Mackrell is accused of safety contraventions.

Peter Metcalf, the solicitor acting for the South Yorkshire Police during the Taylor Inquiry and the first inquests, is accused of attempting to pervert the course of public justice, as are former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton and former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster, who stand accused of altering witness statements.

Metcalf is accused of recommending alterations, deletions and amendments to witness statements “for which there appear to be no justification” while defending South Yorkshire Police at the first inquiry in 1999.

Denton and Foster are accused of carrying out the changes.

Former Chief Constable Norman Bettison is to be charged with four offences of misconduct in public office relating to “telling alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough and the culpability of fans”, the CPS said.

All defendants apart from Duckenfield, will appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 9 August.

Hillsborough survivors

To prosecute Duckenfield, the CPS is applying to the High Court to lift a stay imposed by a judge at the end of a private prosecution in 1999.

Families were overjoyed at the decision, announced 14 months after an inquest jury found the 96 victims had been unlawfully killed.

They had gathered in Warrington to be informed of the CPS’s decision by Sue Hemming, head of its special crime division, after a 28-year battle for justice.

She emphasised that the defendants have a right to a fair trial and it was vital that no reporting, commentary or online information should be published that could affect the proceedings.

“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,” Ms Hemming added.

“We are unable to charge the manslaughter of Anthony Bland, the 96th casualty, as he died almost four years later.”

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.

The body decided not to prosecute six other police officers, Sheffield Wednesday PLC, the Football Association (FA), the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service or three specific ambulance service employees.

Television coverage of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest showed the disaster unfolding as people were crushed against the front of metal pens.

In April 2016, an inquest jury found policing caused or contributed to a dangerous situation developing at the Leppings Lane turnstiles, as did the decision to open the exit gates.

The inquest also concluded that Liverpool fans were in no way to blame for the fatal crush, following police allegations in the aftermath of the tragedy that were published in newspapers, including The Sun’s infamous “The Truth” front page.

The jury also identified errors in the construction and layout of the stadium, the safety certification of the ground, its management by Sheffield Wednesday FC and the response by the ambulance service.

The fresh inquest began in March 2014, two years after the Hillsborough Independent Panel report quashed the original inquests’ verdict of accidental death.