Hillsborough disaster: Judge rules that six men charged following the investigation can go on trial

Family members of the 96 fans who died sit yards away in public gallery

Pat Hurst
Wednesday 06 September 2017 15:45
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Retired police officer Donald Denton (centre) arrives at court in Preston
Retired police officer Donald Denton (centre) arrives at court in Preston

Six men charged after an investigation into the Hillsborough disaster can go on trial, a judge has ruled.

Mr Justice William Davis made the ruling at a pre-trial hearing at Preston Crown Court attended by five of those charged.

Sir Norman Bettison, 61, the former West Yorkshire and Merseyside chief constable, sat in the dock at Preston Crown Court along with fellow retired police officers Donald Denton, 79, and Alan Foster, 70.

Alongside them were former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, 67, and solicitor Peter Metcalf, 67, who acted for South Yorkshire Police following the 1989 disaster.

Around 20 family members of the 96 fans who died sat yards away in the public gallery, overlooking the court packed with 36 lawyers and watched by 20 members of the media in the press gallery.

Lawyers for the defendants also submitted arguments on whether a single judge or different judges should hear each proposed trial.

Alternatives locations for a trial given to Thursday's hearing were Leeds, Birmingham or London.

Mr Bettison, who was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time of the tragedy, is charged with four offences of misconduct in a public office over alleged lies in accounts of his involvement in the disaster.

Mr Mackrell, who was the safety officer for the football club, is charged with two offences involving the stadium safety certificate and a health and safety offence.

Mr Denton, Mr Foster and Mr Metcalf are each charged with two offences of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice relating to amendments made to police officers' statements following the tragedy.

Match commander David Duckenfield, 72, also faces 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter but will not be formally charged and appear in court with the other five until an application to lift a stay on prosecution at the High Court has been heard.

No pleas were entered by the defendants on Wednesday but all have indicated through their lawyers at an earlier hearing that they will plead not guilty.

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

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