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Former English police chief cleared of manslaughter charges over 1989 Hillsborough disaster

Friday, 29 November, 2019 - 12:59

Former English Police Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who was in charge of security on the day of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster in Sheffield that killed 96 people in 1989, was found not guilty of manslaughter by negligence on Thursday.

In April, the Preston court jury failed to reach a verdict on David Duckenfield, 75, after a ten-week trial. A judge decided in June that he should be retried. The prosecution had argued that David Duckenfield bore “personal responsibility” for the disaster. While his lawyer, Benjamin Myers, had argued that he had “done all that was expected of him.”

Duckenfield did not testify at the trial because he suffers from post-traumatic stress, but sound recordings of statements he made in 2015 were broadcast.

In total, 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives and 766 were injured in the worst tragedy to ever hit British sport. The crush occurred in the two standing-only central pens allocated to Liverpool supporters. Shortly before kick-off, in an attempt to ease overcrowding outside the entrance turnstiles, the police match commander, chief superintendent David Duckenfield, ordered an exit to be opened, leading to an influx of even more supporters to the pens.

There have been a number of inquiries into the Hillsborough disaster, including the 1990 Taylor Report, the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel Report and the 2016 Hillsborough Inquest.

Among the findings of the 2016 Hillsborough inquest were that:

— The 96 Liverpool fans who died were unlawfully killed

— Duckenfield’s actions amounted to “gross negligence” due to a breach of his duty of care to fans.

— Police planning errors caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the disaster.

— The 96 victims were killed due to crushing following the admission of a large number of fans through an exit gate.

— Fan behaviour did not cause or contribute to the tragedy.

“The deaths of 96 spectators, many of them very young, are of course a deep human tragedy that causes a lot of anguish and anger and that, for many, time has not erased (…) but you must put aside your emotions and sympathy for the families of victims or for David Duckenfield,” said the judge before the jury retired to deliberate

After hearing more than six weeks of evidence, the jury returned the not guilty verdict following nearly 14 hours of deliberation at Preston Crown Court.

Duckenfield’s solicitor, Ian Lewis, said the former superintendent was “relieved” to have been found not guilty by the jury.

“However, his thoughts and sympathies remain with the families of those who lost their loved ones,” he said in a statement. “He understands the public interest in this case, but would ask that his privacy and that of his family is respected, and will not be commenting further.”

At a press conference at the Cunard Building in Liverpool on Thursday, Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “I blame a system that’s so morally wrong within this country, that’s a disgrace to this nation.

“When 96 people, they say 95, we say 96, are unlawfully killed and yet not one person is accountable. The question I’d like to ask all of you and people within the system is who put 96 people in their graves, who is accountable?”

 


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