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Hillsborough disaster police chief faces manslaughter trial today

He faces charges related to the deaths of 95 Liverpool supporters in a disaster that occurred on 15 April 1989.

Hillsborough match commander, David Duckenfield.
Hillsborough match commander, David Duckenfield.
Image: Peter Byrne

THE POLICE COMMANDER at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster will face trial today over the deaths of 95 Liverpool supporters, 30 years on from the tragedy.

David Duckenfield was the match-day commander at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground on 15 April 1989.

He is charged with 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter following the fatal crush in the Leppings Lane end.

The trial takes place at Preston Crown Court in northwest England. The city is 25 miles from Liverpool.

Duckenfield has pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

There is no manslaughter charge over the death of a 96th casualty, Anthony Bland, as he died almost four years later, and under the law in 1989 his death is now “out of time” to be prosecuted.

Once a 12-strong jury has been selected, the prosecution can begin to set out its case against Duckenfield.

It is unknown how long the trial is expected to last.

Duckenfield’s co-defendant, former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, is charged with an offence involving the stadium safety certificate and a health and safety offence.

Families of the Hillsborough victims fought a long campaign for events surrounding the disaster to be re-investigated.

The Crown Prosecution Service, England’s state prosecutors, announced the decision to press charges in June 2017.

“We will allege that David Duckenfield’s failures to discharge his personal responsibility were extraordinarily bad and contributed substantially to the deaths,” the CPS said at the time.

It is not the function of the CPS to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether it is appropriate to present charges for the criminal court to consider.

Former police officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster, plus retired lawyer Peter Metcalf, will go on trial in September, charged with doing acts intended to pervert the course of justice.

The Hillsborough disaster was Britain’s worst sports stadium tragedy.

The final memorial at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium for the 96 victims was held in 2016, 27 years to the day since the disaster took place.

Families of the deceased unanimously agreed the service would be the last public event at Anfield in memory of the supporters who died.

Comments are closed as the case is due before the courts.

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