In another dramatic turn of events in the 28 year-old saga of the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster, six men will now face criminal charges for their part in the days’ events and the subsequent alleged cover-up of evidence.
Yesterday, Wednesday 28th June, saw the CPS inform families of the 96 victims that match commander for South Yorkshire Police (SYP) on the day in April 1989, David Duckenfield, will face 95 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence, while Norman Bettison, the former chief inspector of SYP, faces four charges of misconduct over the aftermath, in which it is alleged that he lied about the culpability of Liverpool fans.
2016 saw the Hillsborough families awarded a famous victory when their traumatic fight for justice was finally rewarded, a case in which Ruth Bundey, Partner at the firm, represented some of the families who lost their loved ones. A verdict of unlawful killing was passed in a new inquest into the 1989 disaster during the FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
It was always likely that criminal charges against individuals would then follow, and sure enough, in a private meeting in Warrington, the families were informed by Sue Hemmings, CPS head of special crime and counter terrorism division, that six individuals would be facing criminal charges. These are:
David Duckenfield – Match commander for SYP – who faces 95 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence (a 96th charge for the final victim Tony Bland, who died four years after the disaster, is not possible for legal reasons)
- Norman Bettison – Former chief inspector of SYP – who faces four charges of misconduct
- Graham Mackrell – Company secretary and Safety Officer for Sheffield Wednesday Football Club – who faces charges of breaching of health and safety legislation
- Peter Metcalf – SYP solicitor for the Taylor Inquiry – who faces charges of perverting the course of justice, for the alleged changing of witness statements
- Donald Denton – Former SYP Chief superintendent – who faces charges of perverting the course of justice
- Alan Foster – Former SYP Detective chief inspector – who faces charges of perverting the course of justice.
All the defendants will now stand trial beginning on August 9th 2017 in Warrington Magistrates’ Court.
The Football Association does not face any charge, as while it was found they were classed as a “responsible person” in health and safety law, it couldn’t be found that they could be held responsible for any failures. No individual from the ambulance service faces any charges and no one organisation faces any charges – such as Sheffield Wednesday Football Club – as these organisations have been restructured since 1989.
Given the emotion of this particular case and the propensity to comment on it on social media and in the national and local press, it has already been strongly recommended that people read up about the parameters over what they can and cannot comment or post regarding the charges. People are being reminded that criminal proceedings are now underway, so the defendants can claim an unfair trial if reporting or commentary displays a clear prejudice against them.