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Hillsborough tragedy accused in legal move to block prosecution

By Pat Hurst

Six men charged following an investigation into the Hillsborough disaster will attempt to block any prosecution, a court has heard.

The accused are due to go on trial at Preston Crown Court on various dates in late 2018 and 2019. However, they will first attempt to mount an "abuse of process" application on the grounds of delay and prejudicial publicity.

David Duckenfield (72), the match commander on the day of the 1989 football disaster, faces 95 charges of gross negligence manslaughter.

He would go on trial alongside Graham Mackrell (67) the former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary, who faces health and safety and sports ground safety offences.

Mr Justice William Davis ruled Preston would be an "appropriate and proper" venue for the trial.

Three other defendants - retired police officers Donald Denton (79) and Alan Foster (70) and retired force solicitor Peter Metcalf, (67) who acted for South Yorkshire Police following the 1989 disaster - are scheduled to go on trial in January 2019.

They all face charges of perverting the course of justice relating to changes to the witness statements given by police officers.

The trial of Sir Norman Bettison (61) accused of misconduct in a public office, is scheduled for May 2019.

The dates and the venue of Preston Crown Court are provisional.

All the defendants, apart from Duckenfield, appeared in the dock at Preston Crown Court yesterday as lawyers for the prosecution and defence discussed pre-trial matters.

Duckenfield cannot be prosecuted until a stay on any further prosecution is lifted in the High Court.

About 20 family members of the 96 fans killed sat yards away in the public gallery, overlooking the court packed with 36 lawyers and watched by 20 members of the media in the Press gallery.

No pleas have been entered by the defendants but all have indicated through their lawyers at an earlier hearing that they will plead not guilty.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans were crushed to death at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough Stadium on April 15, 1989, shortly after their FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest began.

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