6 face charges over death of 95 football fans in 1989 Hillsborough disaster – CPS

6 face charges over death of 95 football fans in 1989 Hillsborough disaster – CPS
Six individuals will face criminal charges following an inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. Former Match Commander for South Yorkshire Police David Duckenfield is among those facing charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Operation Resolve examined the preparations leading up to the 1989 FA Cup semi-final and the events of the day, where 96 Liverpool FC fans died at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield.

The 96th casualty, Anthony Bland, died from his injuries four years after the disaster. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was therefore unable to lay charges for his manslaughter. 

It considered the criminal offences of gross negligence manslaughter, misconduct in public office, and perverting the course of justice, as well as offences under the Safety at Sports Ground Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Files of evidence relating to 23 suspects, including individuals and organizations, were passed to the CPS earlier this year by Operation Resolve and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Relatives of the 96 victims were told of the CPS decision in a private meeting on Wednesday morning.

“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,” the official CPS statement said.

“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.”

No reporting of the criminal proceedings will be allowed until further notice.

The CPS added that six other police officers had been referred as suspects in the case, but that “insufficient evidence” was found for a prosecution. The company that ran Sheffield Wednesday Football Club at the time of the tragedy was also left in the clear as it is no longer running.

The Football Association (FA) was also left in the clear because “there was insufficient evidence to establish that any breach of the safety certificate could be placed within the responsibility of that organisation.”

Besides Duckenfield, others facing charges include Sheffield Wednesday Football Club’s company secretary and safety officer on the day, Graham Henry Mackrell.

The solicitor acting for the South Yorkshire Police during the Taylor Inquiry and the first inquests, Peter Metcalf, will also face charges, as will former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton of South Yorkshire Police, the force’s former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster, and the same force’s former officer and later Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire Police Norman Bettison.

Bettison is charged with four counts of misconduct in public office. Denton, Foster and Metcalfe are accused of acting with intent to pervert the course of justice. Mackrell is charged with three offences relating to health and safety at sports grounds.

All defendants bar Duckenfield are to appear at Warrington Magistrates Court on August 8.

The head of the special crime and counterterrorism division for the CPS, Sue Hemming, said the conduct of West Midlands Police still needs “additional investigative work.”

“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,” she said.

“The suspects referred to the CPS included individuals and organizations.

“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.”

Campaigners and the families of those killed seemed pleased with the result of the inquiry.

“Everybody applauded when it was announced that the most senior police officer on that particular day will have charges presented to him,” said Barry Donalds, whose 18-year-old son Christopher was killed in the disaster.

Leaving a meeting with lawyers and other relatives of the 96, he pumped his fist in a sign of victory.

“It was only right and proper that we fought for our loved ones ... I was frightened we were going to be let down again. We have been smacked in the face on a number of occasions. The families have acted with the utmost of dignity,” he added.

A Sheffield Wednesday spokesman said the club will not comment.

Speaking in the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday afternoon, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “welcomed” the charges.

“We should pay tribute to all of those that spent a great deal of time making sure there was justice to all those that died at Hillsborough,” he said.