Hillsborough match commander to face trial
Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield is to face trial for the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 Liverpool supporters after a judge lifted a stay on his prosecution.
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.
Announcing his decision today, judge Sir Peter Openshaw said: “In respect of the defendant, David Duckenfield, I lift the stay.”
About 10 relatives of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989 were at Preston Crown Court to hear the ruling, while others watched proceedings on a video link In Liverpool.
There were shouts of “thank you” as the decision was announced.
The ruling comes almost a year after the Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, Tom Williams, issued a warning to the press and to the families not to prejudice any trials.
Bishop Williams, who, at the time of the disaster, served as the parish priest of Our Lady Immaculate on St Domingo Road, close by to Anfield, told The Universe at the time: “I’d like to warn the press and the families not to prejudice the trails because anything that happens in between could make things more difficult.
“I think we’ve got to let justice take its course.”
Duckenfield, 73, faces 95 charges of gross negligence manslaughter following the crush in the terrace pens at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday’s at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15th April.
Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as 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.
Duckenfield is set go on trial in September at Preston Crown Court alongside former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, 68, who is charged with an offence involving the stadium safety certificate and a health and safety offence.
Three other defendants – retired police officers Donald Denton, 80, and Alan Foster, 71, and retired solicitor Peter Metcalf, 68, who acted for South Yorkshire Police following the 1989 disaster – are scheduled to go on trial in January 2019 charged with doing acts intended to pervert the course of justice.
An abuse of process argument for former Merseyside and West Yorkshire chief constable Sir Norman Bettison, who is charged with misconduct in a public office, has been adjourned until 21st August.
Picture: File photo dated 10/03/15 of Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield. (Peter Byrne/PA).