Hillsborough: Police chief among six charged over disaster

  • Video report by ITV News North of England Correspondent Damon Green

Six men have been charged over the Hillsborough disaster which killed 96 football fans.

Ex-chief superintendent David Duckenfield, who was in charge on the day, has been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence.

This relates to 95 of the men, women and children who died during the April 15 1989 FA Cup final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield.

He could not be charged over the death of 96th victim Tony Bland because he died almost four years later.

The law as it applied then meant no-one could be guilty of murder if the death occurred more than a year and a day later than the date when the injuries were caused.

Relatives of the victims celebrated as they emerged from a meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service who told them the news.

Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son Christopher died in the disaster, pumped his fist as he emerged from the meeting with the lawyers and other relatives.

Mr Devonside said: "Everybody applauded when it was announced that the most senior police officer on that particular day will have charges presented to him."

Relatives comfort each other after the hearing. Credit: PA

Also charged are:

  • Sir Norman Bettison, a former officer with South Yorkshire Police and subsequently Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire Police

  • Graham Henry Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday Football Club's company secretary and safety officer at the time of the disaster in 1989

  • Peter Metcalf, the solicitor acting for the South Yorkshire Police during the Taylor Inquiry and the first inquests

  • Former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton of South Yorkshire Police

  • Former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster of South Yorkshire Police

Ex-Merseyside Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison will face charges he lied about the disaster. Credit: PA

Bettison has been charged with four offences of misconduct in public office, relating to "alleged lies he told in the aftermath of Hillsborough and the culpability of fans".

He said he "disappointed to be charged" and will "vigorously defend" his innocence.

In a statement he said: "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.

"I will not be making any further statement so as not to prejudice any future proceedings."

Given his role as a senior police officer, prosecutors will ask the jury to find that this was misconduct of such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder, the CPS said.

Graham Henry Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday Football Club's company secretary and safety officer at the time. Credit: ITV News

Mackrell, has been charged with two offences of contravening a term or condition of a safety certificate, contrary to the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975.

He is additionally charged with one offence of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of other persons who may have been affected by his acts or omissions at work under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster of South Yorkshire Police said he had 'no comment'. Credit: ITV News

Denton and Foster are charged with the same offence for their involvement in changes made to witness statements.

The CPS alleged that Denton oversaw the process of amending the statements and, in doing so, he did acts that had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice.

It also alleged that Foster was central to the process of changing the statements and took action to do so.

Former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton of South Yorkshire Police said he had 'no comment'. Credit: ITV News

Metcalf is charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice relating to material changes made to witness statements.

He reviewed the accounts provided by the officers and made suggestions for alterations, deletions and amendments, which prosecutors allege were directly relevant to an official letter issued by the Taylor Inquiry and for which there appears to be no justification.

Liverpool fans try to escape during the disaster. Credit: PA

Trevor Hicks, whose two teenage daughters died at Hillsborough, also welcomed the charges, calling them "a success for the society at large, not just for us".

Mr Hicks continued that "there are no winners in this, it doesn't bring anybody back from the disaster, what it does do, it sends a message out of accountability as we keep saying, that nobody is above the law".

Mr Hicks mentioned the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy when he warned that organisations should "watch out because families will come after you if you're not doing your jobs properly".

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of Hillsborough Family Support Group, described today's announcement to the families 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.

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

The defendants, other than Duckenfield, will all appear at Warrington Magistrates Court on August 9.

Sue Hemming, Head of Special Crime and Counter-Terrorism Division at the CPS, said in order to charge and prosecute Duckenfield, the CPS must apply to the High Court to lift an order imposed after he was prosecuted privately in 1999.

Ian Lewis, a solicitor for Duckenfield and Denton, said: "In light of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to commence criminal proceedings against David Duckenfield and Donald Denton, it would be inappropriate for me as their solicitor or for my clients themselves to make any comment."

The disaster was one of the worst tragedies in British sporting history.

Of the 96 who died, 38 of those were aged under 19.

The CPS' decision to charge six individuals comes after a five-year investigation in which it considered 23 different people or organisations.

Families say if necessary they are willing to bring their own private prosecutions, following Wednesday's outcome.

Relatives hug each other after hearing six men will face trial. Credit: PA

Current South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson said: "Decisions concerning the bringing of criminal charges are rightly for the CPS.

"Given that criminal proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further for fear of jeopardising this important process in any way.

"In all of this however, our thoughts are with the Hillsborough families as we reflect on the appalling tragedy that is Hillsborough with the loss of so many innocent lives".