Clubs, English FA Cup, Liverpool, Story

The Hillsborough tragedy in 1989 cost 96 Liverpool fans their lives.

A jury in the trial of former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, has failed to reach a verdict on a charge of gross negligence manslaughter against him.

After a 10-week trial at Preston Crown Court, the jury of six men and six women were told by Judge Sir Peter Openshaw they could return a majority verdict of at least 10-2, after they were unable to return a unanimous decision. But they were discharged on Wednesday pending a possible retrial.

Ex-Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, who denied a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act, was found guilty of the charge of breaching his safety duty regarding the allocation of seven turnstiles used by Liverpool fans.

Sue Hemming, director of legal services at the Crown Prosecution Service, 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 and 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. We will meet with them shortly to answer any questions they have about the process.

“May I remind all concerned that criminal proceedings are ongoing and of the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”

A Liverpool statement read: “Liverpool Football Club would like to reiterate our support and admiration for the Hillsborough families, survivors and campaigners in light of today’s verdicts at Preston Crown Court.

“While forthcoming legal proceedings restrict comment on the outcome of the trial, we acknowledge the guilty verdict for Graham Mackrell and can empathise with the frustration shared by everyone affected by the Hillsborough tragedy that the outcome was not definitive.”

Duckenfield, 74, had denied the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989. A 96th victim, Tony Bland, died more than a year after the disaster and under the law at the time, no prosecution can be brought.

The court had heard that Duckenfield, then with South Yorkshire Police, ordered the opening of the exit gates to the ground after crowds had built outside. A fatal crush then occurred after more than 2,000 supporters entered Hillsborough. Many supporters tried to make their way to a central pen at the ground via a tunnel.

The jury retired to consider its decision on Monday, March 26 after Judge Mr. Openshaw had told them to be “dispassionate” in their bid to reach a verdict.

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