Hillsborough trial: Jury FAILS to reach verdict on David Duckenfield over Liverpool deaths

Hillsborough trial: Jury FAILS to reach verdict on David Duckenfield over Liverpool deaths

After more than 29 hours of deliberation, the jury has been discharged after failing to reach verdicts at Preston Crown Court.  The prosecution in the case had alleged Duckenfield, 74, had the “ultimate responsibility” at the ground for the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989. Retired chief superintendent Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans who died at the FA Cup semi-final.

However, the jury found former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, 69, guilty of failing to discharge his duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

He was found guilty by a majority of 10-2.

About 60 family members gathered at the Cunard building in Liverpool gasped as the jury foreman told the court they could not reach a verdict for Duckenfield on which they were all agreed.

There were cheers as the guilty verdict for Mackrell was announced.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said it is seeking a retrial of Duckenfield.

Under the law at the time he was not charged over the death of the 96th victim Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.

The court heard he ordered the opening of exit gates at the Leppings Lane end of the ground at 2.52pm, eight minutes before kick off, after the area outside the turnstiles became dangerously overcrowded.

More than 2,000 fans entered through exit gate C once it was opened and many headed for the tunnel ahead of them, which led to the central pens where the crush happened.

Benjamin Myers QC, defending Duckenfield, told the jury those comments were made with the benefit of hindsight and some of the questioning did not take into account his memory of the day.

He argued the case was “breathtakingly unfair” and said Duckenfield had “tried to do the right thing”.

Mackrell, who was safety officer for the club at the time, was accused of failing to take reasonable care particularly in respect of ensuring there were enough turnstiles to prevent unduly large crowds building up.

The court heard there were seven turnstiles for the 10,100 Liverpool fans with standing tickets.

Mackrell did not give evidence either but Jason Beer QC, defending him, argued the build up outside was caused by other factors, including a lack of police cordons and the unusual arrival pattern of fans.

In a statement released after the jury finished its deliberations, Sue Hemming, Director of Legal Services for the CPS, said: “This trial, which relates to events from almost 30 years ago, has been incredibly complex and, after lengthy deliberations, the jury has found Graham Mackrell guilty but has been unable to reach a verdict in respect of David Duckenfield.

“We have discussed the matter carefully with counsel and I can confirm the CPS will seek a retrial against Mr Duckenfield for manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 men, women and children.

“I recognise that these developments will be difficult for the families affected by the Hillsborough disaster.

“We have remained in regular contact with them throughout these proceedings, and spoke with those present in Preston and Liverpool before informing the court of our decision.”

More to follow…

Published at Wed, 03 Apr 2019 11:24:00 +0000