Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield is to be charged with the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989.
At a private meeting in Warrington yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service told grieving family members it would also bring criminal proceedings against five other people, including former West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, who is accused of deception in the aftermath of the disaster.
Owing to a technicality in law, charges cannot be brought in relation to the 96th casualty, Anthony Bland, who died almost four years later.
Four other individuals have been charged in relation to the disaster, including former Sheffield Wednesday safety officer Graham Mackrell who is charged with three offences relating to health and safety and safety at sports grounds. He and Duckenfield both face criminal charges which relate to the preparation for the game and the events of the day.
Former chief superintendent Donald Denton, former detective chief inspector Alan Foster and Peter Metcalf, the solicitor acting for South Yorkshire Police, are charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice relating to amendments made to police officers’ statements.
Bettison, a former chief inspector and superintendent with South Yorkshire Police, who went on to become the Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire Police forces, has been charged as part of a parallel Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into an alleged police ‘cover-up’.
In their statement the CPS said it would now need to apply to a High Court judge to lift an order previously imposed in relation to Duckenfield by a senior judge at the end of a 1999 private prosecution, in order to be able to proceed.
Sue Hemming, head of the CPS’ special crime and counter terrorism division, said: “We will allege that David Duckenfield’s failures to discharge his personal responsibility were extraordinarily bad and contributed substantially to the deaths of each of those 96 people who so tragically and unnecessarily lost their lives.”
Barry Devonside, whose son Christopher, 18, was killed in the disaster, pumped his fist as he emerged from the meeting with lawyers and other relatives of the 96.
He said: “Everybody applauded when it was announced that the most senior police officer on that particular day will have charges presented to him.”
Ian Lewis, the partner at JMW Solicitors who is representing Duckenfield and Denton, said: “In light of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to commence criminal proceedings against David Duckenfield and Donald Denton, it would be inappropriate for me as their solicitor or for my clients themselves to make any comment.”
In a statement, Bettison said he was “disappointed to be charged”.
He said: “The charge is not in relation to my actions around the time of the disaster but in relation to comments I made years afterwards. I will vigorously defend my innocence as I have been doing for nearly five years.”
All of the defendants, with the exception of Duckenfield, will appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on August 9.