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Match commander pleads not guilty to Hillsborough manslaughter charge

David Duckenfield, who was the match commander on the day of the Hillsborough football tragedy in 1989, has formally pleaded not guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 Liverpool FC supporters at Sheffield Wednesday FC’s ground.

David Duckenfield | Image credit: ©Bruce Adams / Associated Newspapers/REX/Shutterstock

The former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent and Graham Mackrell, who was the football ground’s safety officer and company secretary, were expected to go on trial today at Preston Crown Court but a provisional trial date for both men was moved to 14 January.

Duckenfield, who entered a not guilty plea via videolink at the pre-trial hearing today, could face a life sentence if found guilty. 

Mackrell, who did attend the court, pleaded not guilty to one charge of contravening Sheffield Wednesday FC’s safety certificate for the ground under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, and one offence of failing to protect peoples’ welfare under the Health and Safety at Work Act. 

According to The Guardian, for the first criminal charge, he is accused of being culpable for Sheffield Wednesday FC’s failure to agree with police before the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest football clubs, the arrangements and number of turnstiles for admitting the Liverpool supporters in the Leppings Lane and north-west terraces. 

For the second charge, Mackrell is alleged to have failed as the club’s safety officer to take reasonable care in relation to arranging for sufficient numbers of turnstiles so “no unduly large crowds would be waiting for admission”, and in drawing up continency plans for coping with “exceptionally large numbers of people arriving at the ground”, and to deal with situations wwere available entrances “have proved insufficient to stop unduly large crowds from gathering outside”.

If found guilty of the first charge, Mackrell could face two years in prison. For the second charge, the maximum penalty would be an unlimited fine.

Ninety-five Liverpool FC supporters died at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989. The fans were crushed in standing-only “pens” at the stadium’s Leppings Lane terrace as thousands of ticketholders made their way into the ground minutes before the 3pm kick-off. 

Duckenfield has not been charged in relation to the death of a 96th victim, Tony Bland, because a manslaughter charge in 1989 could not be applied if the victim died longer than a year a day after the alleged criminal acts took place. Bland sustained severe brain damage in the crush and remained on life support for four years before his family sought a court application to turn it off. 

In June this year, Judge Sir Peter Openshaw lifted a prosecution ban, known as a “stay”, which had been imposed by Mr Justice Hooper in 2000 to prevent further legal proceedings being taken against Duckenfield. 

Three other men face criminal charges in relation to Hillsborough: Donald Denton, a former chief superintendent for South Yorkshire Police; Alan Foster, a former chief inspector and Denton’s deputy; and Peter Metcalfe, the solicitor who acted for the South Yorkshire Police. All three are charged with perverting the course of justice, relating to changes made to the witness statements.


Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton was previously acting editor of IOSH Magazine. Before that he was editor of SHP and he has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner


  • Once again we have the

    Permalink Submitted by Jeremy Rowland on 12 September 2018 - 09:37 am

    Once again we have the typical 'finger pointing' just because there was a tragedy where there was a loss of life, while you cannot bring back the dead surely the emphasis should be on ensuring that this type of accident does not happen again and not trying to make individuals responsible whether they are policemen or ordinary members of the public. The sad truth is the only people who make gains out of all of this are the 'no win, no fee' goons.

    • This is clearly a criminal

      Permalink Submitted by Arthur J on 18 September 2018 - 04:34 pm

      This is clearly a criminal case where the CPS have adjudged, and rightly in my opinion, that there is a case to answer.


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