Five men due in court over Hillsborough disaster

RELATIVES of the 96 people killed in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster looked on in court yesterday as former chief constable Sir Norman Bettison faced criminal charges relating to the tragedy.

The five, who include three former police officers, were due to appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court in northwest England.

All five men, who sat alongside each other in the dock of court two, gave indications that they intend to plead not guilty to the charges when their cases are heard.

He was prosecuted privately in 1999 and the CPS is applying to the High Court to lift a court order imposed, which must be removed before Mr Duckenfield can be charged.

The other men on trial are former police officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster, South Yorkshire Police solicitor Peter Metcalf, and former Sheffield Wednesday safety officer Graham Mackrell.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans were crushed to death in pens at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough Stadium on April 15 1989, as their FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest began.

It is the first time the five men have appeared in court since the Crown Prosecution Service announced in June they would be charged.

In 2009 the Hillsborough Independent Panel reviewed the evidence, absolving Liverpool fans of any responsibility and in 2016 a new coroner’s inquest quashed the original ruling – and a jury returned a verdict of “unlawful killing”.

The Crown Prosecution Service, England’s state prosecutors, say there will be no manslaughter charges over the death of the 96th casualty, Anthony Bland, as he died nearly four years later, and under the law in 1989 his death is now “out of time” to be prosecuted.

Mackrell is charged with two counts of breaching the terms of the Hillsborough stadium’s safety certificate contrary to the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, and failing to take reasonable care under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Bettison, in particular, is alleged to have told lies about the culpability of fans in the disaster and his involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough.

All the defendants were given unconditional bail by District Judge Arbuthnot, who told them: “You are being sent under various provision to Preston Crown Court and the first appearance there will be on September 6. I’m sure you will attend”.