Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield to face retrial over gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans

25 Jun

David Duckenfield will face a retrial over the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw made the ruling at Preston Crown Court on Tuesday following a hearing on Monday.

David Duckenfield faces a retrial after the jury was discharged from a 10-week trial earlier this year
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A 10-week trial in April ended with the jury being discharged after failing to reach a verdict, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) sought a retrial.

Lawyers of the 74-year-old retired chief superintendent resisted the application.

The judge said: “I authorise a retrial of defendant David Duckenfield.”

96 men, women and children died in the crush on the Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Under the law at the time, Duckenfield, who was the match commander at Hillsborough, was not charged over the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.

Floral tributes and Liverpool scarves at the Hillsborough disaster memorial at Sheffield Wednesday
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About 10 family members were in court to hear the judge’s ruling along with a dozen members of the press.

The retrial is expected to take place on October 7.

Hillsborough trial: David Duckenfield facing retrial after jury fail to reach verdict on match commander

3 Apr

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield is facing a retrial after a jury were unable to agree whether he was guilty or not guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The six men and six women found former Sheffield Wednesday secretary Graham Mackrell, 69, guilty of failing to discharge his duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act, but they were unable to reach a verdict on Duckenfield.

A jury were now unable to decide whether Duckenfield was guilty or not guilty of his charges

Jurors were discharged on Wednesday, their eighth day of deliberations, at Preston Crown Court. The CPS has indicated it will seek a retrial for Duckenfield.

About 60 family members gathered at the Cunard building in Liverpool gasped as the jury foreman told the court they could not reach a verdict for Duckenfield on which they were all agreed.

There were cheers as the guilty verdict for Mackrell was announced.

The jury retired to consider their verdicts on Monday, March 25, after a 10 week trial and after a week of deliberations were given a majority direction, meaning verdicts on which at least 10 of them agreed would be accepted.

They had deliberated for 29 hours and six minutes.

Retired chief superintendent Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans who died at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

The prosecution in the case had alleged Duckenfield, 74, had the “ultimate responsibility” at the ground for the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.

Under the law at the time he was not charged over the death of the 96th victim Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.

The court heard he ordered the opening of exit gates at the Leppings Lane end of the ground at 2.52pm, eight minutes before kick off, after the area outside the turnstiles became dangerously overcrowded.

More than 2,000 fans entered through exit gate C once it was opened and many headed for the tunnel ahead of them, which led to the central pens where the crush happened.

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Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, told the court in his closing speech that Duckenfield, who was promoted to the role less than three weeks before the match, should have had the knowledge to make “key lifesaving decisions” on the day.

He said many of the failures alleged by the prosecution had been admitted by Duckenfield when he gave evidence at inquests Into the 96 deaths in Warrington in 2015.

Benjamin Myers QC, defending Duckenfield, told the jury those comments were made with the benefit of hindsight and some of the questioning did not take into account his memory of the day.

He argued the case was “breathtakingly unfair” and said Duckenfield had “tried to do the right thing”.

Liverpool fans display a banner in reference to the Hillsborough disaster during the Barclays Premier League match with Blackburn at Anfield in April 2009

Duckenfield’s defence case lasted just 74 minutes and consisted of read evidence from Bernard Murray, the late superintendent who worked as ground commander and Duckenfield’s deputy on the day.

Mackrell, who was safety officer for the club at the time, was accused of failing to take reasonable care particularly in respect of ensuring there were enough turnstiles to prevent unduly large crowds building up.

The court heard there were seven turnstiles for the 10,100 Liverpool fans with standing tickets.

Mackrell did not give evidence either but Jason Beer QC, defending him, argued the build up outside was caused by other factors, including a lack of police cordons and the unusual arrival pattern of fans.

The case was adjourned at Preston Crown Court until 2pm.

Liverpool fan tried to save boy during Hillsborough crush, members of the jury told

27 Feb

A Liverpool supporter tried to give the kiss of life to a boy on the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough as they were both being crushed, a court has heard.

In a statement read to the jury, Michael Moran said: “There was a boy who looked like he was asleep even thought he was standing up. I tried to give him the kiss of life.”

A Liverpool supporter tried to give the kiss of life to a boy on the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough as they were both being crushed

96 Liverpool fans were killed as a result of the congestion. Police Match Commander David Duckenfield denies gross negligence manslaughter.

In his account Mr Moran says he thought he was going to die in the pen, but when a girl next to him became hysterical “I slapped her across the face and told her we would get out of this.”

After becoming unconscious he came to his senses to find he was lying on the pitch: “There was mayhem all around. It was like a battlefield. There was pandemonium.”

Chelsea supporter Geoffrey Moody who was also in the crush described how a boy was trampled on but “nobody could do a thing about it”.

Tributes are placed around a vigil outside Anfield

In his statement he said: “I had just given up. I had fought for my life. I was convinced I was going to die.”

The deceased’s final movements were shown to the jury whilst some family members were in court to watch the CCTV footage.

Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham and Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram attended Preston Crown Court to offer them support.

Extracts from David Duckenfield’s testimony in 2015 to the new inquests into the 96 deaths was read out, in which he admits “probably I wasn’t the best man for the job on the day.”

Elsewhere in his answers Mr Duckenfield said: “With hindsight – I should have thought about my limited knowledge of the role of a commander in a major event that was an all-ticket sellout, when I had not been responsible, or in that responsible position, previously.”

Looking back he admitted it was a “serious mistake” to take on the role when his knowledge of the Hillsborough stadium “wasn’t an intimate knowledge, and in the short time available, it couldn’t possible be.”

Mr Duckenfield was promoted to Chief Superintendent at South Yorkshire Police on 27 March 1989. The FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was scheduled for 15 April.

Despite this, Mr Duckenfield told the inquests that at the time he was confident and with the help of experienced colleagues “it did not cross my mind that the semi-final was something that I couldn’t deal with”.

Father tells Hillsborough trial of losing two daughters at 1989 disaster

25 Feb

A father whose two daughters died in the Hillsborough disaster has described to a jury the pain of having to choose which one to abandon as the tragedy unfolded.

Trevor Hicks had gone onto the pitch to search for Victoria and Sarah after the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was stopped because of the crush.

Trevor Hicks lost his two daughters at the Hillsborough disaster

Mr Hicks told Preston Crown Court he found them lying on the ground ‘almost side by side’ and believed they were both still alive.

When an ambulance arrived he helped lift 15-year-old Victoria into it, but Sarah, 19, was still on the pitch.

Mr Hicks said: “That was probably the worst moment of my life. Do I stay or do I go?”

He decided to go with Victoria, thinking Sarah would be brought to hospital soon afterwards. But after waiting for her in A&E – she never arrived.

Victoria and Sarah were pronounced dead on the day.

Police Match Commander David Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool supporters.

The 96th victim, Tony Bland, is not included on the indictment as he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were sustained.

Mr Duckenfield’s defence team argues he did not have ‘special powers’ to foresee the disaster and should not be held accountable for the failures of others.

David Duckenfield is on trial over the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 fans

Sheffield Wednesday’s Safety Officer at the time, Graham Mackrell, denies breaching safety regulations.

Earlier Barry Devonside, whose son Christopher was killed at Hillsborough, broke down whilst giving evidence.

He watched the tragedy unfold from the North Stand, and told the jury fear came over him ‘from head to foot’ when he realised what was happening in the Leppings Lane terraces.

“It escalated into something horrendous,” Mr Devonside told the court. “I saw police officers pushing back into pen three those who were fighting for their lives to get out of that pen.”

Unable to find Christopher, Mr Devonside went to a gymnasium nearby where bodies had been taken.

He was confronted by a police officer who ‘treated me like I was dirt on his shoes’ and shouted at him, Mr Devonside continued.

Barry Devonside addressed the court on Monday

He was told to wait where he was, and, after ‘what seemed like a lifetime’, he was shown the body of his son, who had died at the age of 18.

Liverpool supporter Steve Allen was a Metropolitan Police officer in 1989 and was in pen three as a fan when the crush took place.

He told Preston Crown Court: “People were shouting in agony. People were in pain. People were screaming to get out.”

In case the on-duty police officers were sceptical of the pleas, Mr Allen held up his badge for them to see.

The trial continues.

Hillsborough trial: Police and fire service declared stadium ‘safe’ before disaster, court told

18 Jan

Both the police and the fire service had declared Hillsborough safe before the disaster that killed 96 Liverpool supporters, a court has heard.

Match commander David Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 fans.

Graham Mackrell, the Sheffield Wednesday club secretary, denies breaching safety regulations prior to the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Mr Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 fans

Regarding the 1975 Safety at Sports Grounds Act, the jury was shown a South Yorkshire Police letter, dated 1986, confirming ‘Hillsborough meets the criteria set out in the above Act’.

The fire service confirmed it did not have a problem with the stadium either, Preston Crown Court heard.

In 1987, Sheffield Wednesday suggested to its structural engineering consultants the capacity of the Leppings Lane terrace should be reduced from 10,000, but the club were instructed to keep it as it was.

The jury was told this helps to place Mr Mackrell’s role in planning for the 1989 match in context.

A Football Association report from 1987 described Hillsborough as ‘exceptionally well maintained’ with a layout of ‘high order’.

Later the jury heard from witness James Chumley; a Tottenham fan, Mr Chumley attended the 1981 FA Cup semi-final between Spurs and Wolves at Hillsborough during which a crush occurred in the Leppings Lane pens.

He described how police officers outside the ground refused him and around 100 others entry to the terrace, being told he was in the ‘worst end’ and that the situation was always the same at big games.

Graham Mackrell denies breaching safety regulations prior to the 1989 disaster

The trial previously viewed footage from said match, showing Tottenham supporters climbing out of the pens to escape the crush.

South Yorkshire Police afterwards wrote to Sheffield Wednesday insisting the actions of officers who helped them were ‘vital’ to save lives, and the police and the club should be able to improve crowd control in future.

Hillsborough’s 96th victim, Tony Bland, is not included on the indictment against Mr Duckenfield because he died more than a year and a day after sustaining his injuries.

The trial continues.

Hillsborough trial day four: Match commander did not have ‘special powers’, jury told

17 Jan

The police match commander on the day of the Hillsborough disaster did not have “special powers” to anticipate it and should not be held accountable for the failures of others, a jury’s been told.

David Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool supporters.

Mr Duckenfield was appointed match commander less than three weeks before the FA Cup tie

His defence barrister, Benjamin Myers QC, told Preston Crown Court Mr Duckenfield has been “relentlessly criticised” for things he was not responsible for during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

The former Chief Superintendent was appointed to the role of match commander less than three weeks before the fixture took place on 15 April.

Disaster unfolded “by virtue of bad stadium design, bad planning, some aspects of crowd behaviour, some aspects of police behaviour and genuine human error”, the jury was told.

That does not take away from how “bitterly sad” the incident was, Mr Myers added.

Earlier the court heard a man who lost two daughters at Hillsborough was told to “shut up” when he tried to alert a police officer to the unfolding tragedy.

Trevor Hicks’ seat was near the police control box but Sarah and Victoria Hicks were in pen 3 – a standing section of the Leppings Lane end.

As people began climbing over the fence to escape the crush Mr Hicks believed the police “totally misread” the situation and thought a pitch invasion was taking place, the court was told.

After making his way onto the pitch he found both his daughters laid out, almost side by side. They were later pronounced dead.

Trevor Hicks lost two daughters, Sarah and Victoria, at the disaster

The prosecution argued the density of the crowd before kick off was obviously “into the realm of disaster”.

That made the failure of match commander David Duckenfield who had a “birds-eye view” from the police control box more “extraordinary”, they claimed.

Health and Safety Executive analysis estimated the density at the front of pen 3 of the Leppings Lane terrace could have been as high as 10 people per square metre at 3:03pm.

This was into the realm of “involuntary packing” and prevented people controlling their own movement.

An off-duty police officer who went to the game was carried towards the stadium without his feet touching the ground, the court heard

The jury was shown photos of the crowd pressed up against the pitch perimeter fence, having been warned the images would be distressing.

An off-duty police officer who went to the game was carried towards the stadium without his feet touching the ground, it was said.

Once in the pen, which was already packed, he was pushed to the front “as if on roller skates” and was unable to move when he got there, the prosecution told the jury.

It was something he had “never experienced before”.

The trial continues.

Hillsborough trial: Jurors asked what team they support as day one commences

14 Jan

Potential jurors in the trial of the Hillsborough match commander have been asked to declare if they support Liverpool, Everton, Nottingham Forest or Sheffield Wednesday.

Those who do have been deemed partial and won’t be invited to serve as former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, 74, defends himself from charges of gross negligence manslaughter.

David Duckenfield, middle, is on trial for charges of gross negligence manslaughter

He is accused of failing to carry out his duty to protect supporters at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Mr Duckenfield had been recently promoted by South Yorkshire Police prior to the match.

Any potential juror with a connection to the police force will also be unable to serve on the trial, which is the first criminal trial to take place in relation to the disaster.

Some family members of Hillsborough victims were at Preston Crown Court as the case began.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Club Secretary at the time, Graham Mackrel, is also on trial  after being charged with two counts of breaching health and safety

Ruling out potential jurors took most of the day and by the end the group of 100 had been whittled down to 32.

They will return on Tuesday when the judge will select 14 and the prosecution will proceed to open its case.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Club Secretary at the time, Graham Mackrell, is on trial alongside Mr Duckenfield charged with two counts of breaching health and safety.

The 69-year-old, who was also the club’s Safety Officer, denies the charges.

Both men were asked to stand and face the jury candidates to rule out any possibility a member of the group knew them personally.

Hillsborough’s 96th victim, Tony Bland, is not included on the indictment as his death occurred more than a year and a day after sustaining his injuries, which was the cut-off point for a manslaughter charge in 1989.

The trial is expected to last up to four months, which would see it span the 30th anniversary of the tragedy on 15 April.

Hillsborough disaster: Misconduct charges dropped against former police chief Sir Norman Bettison

21 Aug

Sir Norman Bettison will not be prosecuted over the alleged lies he told following the Hillsborough disaster.

The former Merseyside and West Yorkshire chief constable had been charged with four counts of misconduct in a public office, but they have now been dropped by the Crown Prosecution  Service.

Sir Norman Bettison attends court

Sir Norman, 62, who was a chief inspector at the time of the tragedy at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989, had been due to face trial next year.

He was accused of untruthfully describing his role in the South Yorkshire Police response as “peripheral” in a comment to then chief inspector of constabulary Sir David O’Dowd, in 1998, when Sir Norman applied for the job of chief constable in Merseyside.

He was also accused of lying to Merseyside Police Authority when he said he had never attempted to shift blame for the disaster “on to the shoulders of Liverpool supporters”.

Sir Norman, of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, was alleged to have lied in a statement issued on September 13 2012, following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, when he said he had never offered any interpretation other than that the behaviour of Liverpool fans did not cause the disaster.

He was also accused of misconduct over a a statement released the following day in which he said he had never “besmirched” Liverpool fans.

Sir Norman was charged after the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) carried out the biggest criminal investigation into alleged police misconduct ever carried out in England and Wales.

Five other men, including Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield, are due to face trial for offences related to the disaster next year.

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield to face trial for the manslaughter of 95 football supporters

29 Jun

David Duckenfield, the match commander on the day of the Hillsborough disaster, is to face trial for the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 football supporters.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw ruled to lift the “stay” on prosecuting Duckenfield at Preston Crown Court on Friday after a formal application by the CPS.

David Duckenfield will face trial for the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 football supporters

About ten family members of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final were in Preston Crown Court, with others watching proceedings on a video link from Liverpool, as the judge made his rulings.

There were shouts of “thank you” as the judge announced Duckenfield would stand trial.

The judge ruled that four other defendants charged with matters related to the disaster and its aftermath will also face trial following abuse of process arguments, which were heard at Preston Crown Court earlier this month.

An abuse of process argument for Sir Norman Bettison, who is charged with misconduct in a public office, has been adjourned until August 21.

Liverpool fans remember the 96 people tragically killed in the Hillsborough disaster

Duckenfield, 73, faces 95 charges of gross negligence manslaughter following the crush in the terrace pens of the Sheffield Wednesday stadium’s Leppings Lane end at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15.

The judge said: “In respect of the defendant David Duckenfield I lift the stay.

“I confirm that I grant the voluntary bill of indictment to allow prosecution against for manslaughter to proceed. I decline to order a stay on that charge.”

Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, because he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were caused.

The Crown Prosecution Service applied to lift a historical stay – halting further legal proceedings – on Mr Duckenfield which was put in place in 2000.