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David Duckenfield to face 95 manslaughter charges over Hillsborough fans’ deaths

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw lifted a stay on the match commander’s prosecution at a hearing at Preston Crown Court on Friday.

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 on Friday, 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.

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

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 April 15.

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.

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The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster (PA)

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.

The prosecution decided not to proceed with a second charge of breaching the stadium safety certificate against Mackrell.

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.

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Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell arrives at Preston Crown Court (Peter Byrne/PA)

The judge said: “I decline to stay that prosecution; those charges must also, therefore, proceed to trial, presently scheduled for January next year.”

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 August 21.

A case management hearing for the case of Duckenfield and Mackrell is due to be held on Monday.

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