Hillsborough: jury fail to reach verdict on match commander David Duckenfield

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Damon Green

A former football club official has been convicted over the Hillsborough disaster but match commander David Duckenfield is facing a retrial after a jury failed to reach a verdict.

Duckenfield, 74, a former chief superintendent, had denied the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans.

The jury at Preston Crown Court did convict ex-Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell of failing to discharge his duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Ninety-five people died during the disaster at the FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield on 15 April 1989. A 96th - Tony Bland - died four years later having never recovered from his injuries sustained that day.

The Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed it will be seeking a retrial for Duckenfield.

About 60 family members had gathered at the Cunard building in Liverpool and there were gasps as the jury foreman told the court they could not reach a verdict for Duckenfield on which they were all agreed.

Christine Burke, whose father, Henry, was 47 when he died at the match, said it had been really difficult for all the families, fans and survivors of the tragedy.

She told ITV News: "We've been on a long journey for the past 30 years and we are a bit disappointed about today but we're glad that we may get a retrial."

There were cheers at the Cunard building as the guilty verdict for Mackrell was announced.

Hillsborough Family Support Group chairwoman Margaret Aspinall said the families of the 96 fans killed at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final had no closure.

Mrs Aspinall, whose son James was 18 when he died in the crush on the Leppings Lane terrace, said: “We were all hoping we would have some sort of closure today and we haven’t. We have still got a long journey.”

Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell was convicted under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

The six men and six women jurors were then discharged, after their eighth day of deliberations.

The jury retired to consider their verdicts on Monday, March 25, after a 10 week trial and after a week of deliberations were given a majority direction, meaning verdicts on which at least 10 of them agreed would be accepted.

They had deliberated for 29 hours and six minutes.

The prosecution in the case had alleged Duckenfield had the "ultimate responsibility" at the ground for the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.

A memorial at Liverpool FC's Anfield ground for the Hillsborough disaster. Credit: PA

Under the law at the time, he was not charged over the death of the 96th victim Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.

The court heard Duckenfield ordered the opening of exit gates at the Leppings Lane end of the ground at 2.52pm, eight minutes before kick off, after the area outside the turnstiles became dangerously overcrowded.

More than 2,000 fans entered through exit gate C once it was opened and many headed for the tunnel ahead of them, which led to the central pens where the crush happened.

Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, told the court in his closing speech that Duckenfield, who was promoted to the role less than three weeks before the match, should have had the knowledge to make "key lifesaving decisions" on the day.

He said many of the failures alleged by the prosecution had been admitted by Duckenfield when he gave evidence at inquests Into the 96 deaths in Warrington in 2015.

Benjamin Myers QC, defending Duckenfield, told the jury those comments were made with the benefit of hindsight and some of the questioning did not take into account his memory of the day.

He argued the case was "breathtakingly unfair" and said Duckenfield had "tried to do the right thing".

Graham Mackrell was accused of failing to take reasonable care. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Mackrell, who was safety officer for the club at the time, was accused of failing to take reasonable care particularly in respect of ensuring there were enough turnstiles to prevent unduly large crowds building up.

The court heard there were seven turnstiles for the 10,100 Liverpool fans with standing tickets.

Mackrell did not give evidence either but Jason Beer QC, defending him, argued the build up outside was caused by other factors, including a lack of police cordons and the unusual arrival pattern of fans.

Confirming the intention to seek a retrial against Duckenfield, Sue Hemming, director of legal services for the CPS, said: "This trial, which relates to events from almost 30 years ago, has been incredibly complex.

"I recognise that these developments will be difficult for the families affected by the Hillsborough disaster."

The court was adjourned until later on Wednesday.