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Hillsborough: Six are to face charges over 1989 stadium tragedy

By Eleanor Barlow and Pat Hurst

Families of the 96 Hillsborough victims broke into applause as they were told match commander David Duckenfield and five others are to face criminal charges nearly 30 years on from the death of their loved ones.

Duckenfield (72) along with former Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison (61), two other senior ex-South Yorkshire Police officers, a solicitor and the former safety boss of Sheffield Wednesday FC will be prosecuted, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of Hillsborough Family Support Group, described the announcement as the "beginning of the end".

Mrs Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the tragedy, said: "No one should have to go through what the families have gone through for 28 years to try and get to the truth and to get accountability.

"What has been achieved today will change things for the good of this nation and I think that's the legacy of what our 96 will have left behind."

Match commander Duckenfield, a former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent and officer in charge on the day, faces 95 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Bettison, a chief inspector at the time of the disaster, faces four offences of misconduct in a public office over alleged lies in accounts of his involvement in the disaster.

In a statement, Bettison said: "I am disappointed to be charged with misconduct in a public office. The charge is not in relation to my actions around the time of the disaster but in relation to comments I made years afterwards. I will vigorously defend my innocence as I have been doing for nearly five years."

The Football Association, South Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Sheffield Wednesday FC and its architects and safety consultants will not be prosecuted.

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

After decades of campaigning by relatives, an inquest jury last year ruled the victims had been unlawfully killed in a tragedy caused by police blunders.

This paved the way for prosecutions after the original verdict, which ruled that the deaths were accidental, was quashed.

Relatives of the 96 were yesterday told the six individuals will be charged by lawyers at a special meeting in Warrington following a legal fight spanning three decades.

Lawyers have warned of possible consequences of commenting on the decision for fear of prejudicing a fair trial for the accused now charges have been brought.

Duckenfield has not been formally charged yet as the CPS will need to apply to a High Court judge to lift a stay.

The stay, halting further legal proceedings, was imposed by a now-retired judge after Duckenfield faced trial for two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence in a private prosecution brought by families in 1999.

A date for his court appearance is yet to be fixed. The others will appear at Warrington Magistrates Court on August 9.

Belfast Telegraph


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