Last year, 27 years after 96 Liverpool fans were fatally crushed in the central pen of Hillsborough stadium’s Leppings Lane End before that year’s FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, new inquests into their deaths concluded that they had been unlawfully killed. It was Question Six on the jury’s list: “Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed?”.
Hillsborough memorial at Anfield
The answer came back YES, by majority verdict. As the BBC reported at the time, “To answer yes, jurors must be ‘sure’ that match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield was ‘responsible for the manslaughter by gross negligence’ of those who were fatally injured”.
Today, the Hillsborough families, their friends and supporters can move from that truth to a vision of justice: charging decisions have been taken against six people involved in the fateful semi-final. Zelo Street regulars will know that from this point on, strict contempt of court rules apply, and so this post will not pass further comment on the charges brought, or those charged. Some of the names will be familiar to observers of the campaign.
As the BBC has told, “Former Ch Supt David Duckenfield faces being charged with the manslaughter of 95 people at the Hillsborough disaster … Mr Duckenfield was the South Yorkshire Police (SYP) match commander at the FA Cup semi-final when 96 Liverpool fans were fatally injured in a crush … He faces the charge of manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 fans”. Duckenfield cannot be charged with the manslaughter of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, because he died four years after the event.
Former South Yorkshire chief constable “Norman [Bettison] faces four charges of misconduct in a public office relating to alleged lies he told in the aftermath about the culpability of fans”. He has company: “Peter Metcalf, who was a solicitor acting for SYP, is charged with perverting the course of Justice, relating to changes to witness statements … Former Ch Supt Donald Denton is accused of perverting the course of justice … Former Det Ch Insp Alan Foster is charged with perverting the course of justice”.
The sixth person to be charged is “Graham Mackrell, former Sheffield Wednesday Club Secretary [who] will be accused of breaching Health and Safety and Safety at Sports Ground legislation”. There were questions over the ground’s safety certification, and its fitness for purpose. Thus the move from Truth to Justice.
All the defendants, except Duckenfield, will appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on August 9. The victims’ families were briefed on the charges earlier this morning.
One group of people, though, will not be in the dock: those who faithfully reported what South Yorkshire Police told them. For good reason, the Sun newspaper not only remains banned across parts of Merseyside, that ban is right now extending its reach.
Of course, what would help shine a light on the behaviour of the press over Hillsborough would be Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry. I’ll just leave that one there.