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Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield appears in court at start of manslaughter trial

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield arrives at court Photo: PA

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield has appeared in court at the start of his trial for the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans.

The 74-year-old former police chief superintendent sat alongside former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, who is charged with contravening the stadium’s safety certificate and a health and safety offence.

When the hearing began at Preston Crown Court shortly after 11am, 100 potential jurors were brought into the courtroom, sitting in the jury box, public gallery and dock.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw told the jury panel that the case "might last three or even four months".

Potential jurors were given a questionnaire to assess whether they would be suitable to serve.

It said: “In this case one defendant is charged with manslaughter and another with two health and safety offences arising out of the Hillsborough stadium disaster at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest played in Sheffield as long ago as April 15, 1989.”

The form was made up of 18 questions including whether they were supporters of Liverpool, Everton, Sheffield Wednesday or Nottingham Forest football clubs and whether they or close family members or friends had ever been police officers or been employed by the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Independent Police Complaints Commission or any criminal justice agency.

Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell. Credit: PA

The two defendants, who both wore suits and sat alongside solicitors, were asked to stand so the panel could see whether they recognised them and a list of witnesses to be called was read out.

Potential jurors were also asked whether they had health problems or had any pre-booked holidays while the trial was due to sit.

Sir Peter warned them not to look up anything about the disaster on the internet.

The court was adjourned while potential jurors filled in the questionnaires.

Fourteen family members sat in court as part of the public gallery was set aside for the jury panel.

Other relatives of the 96 victims watched from a court annexe while some were able to watch via videolink at the Cunard building in Liverpool.

Duckenfield previously appeared via videolink to enter a not guilty plea to the charge of gross negligence manslaughter.

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.

Mackrell, 69, is charged with contravening a term or condition of the stadium’s safety certificate, by failing to agree the methods of admission for the match, and failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety Act by not taking reasonable care in respect of arrangements for admission and the drawing up of contingency plans.

Ninety-six men, women and children died in the crush in pens at the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield Wednesday ground at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.