David Duckenfield, the Hillsborough match commander for the Police, has been found not guilty of the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans in the 1989 disaster.

The former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent, now 75, was in charge of policing at the FA Cup semi-final in which 96 fans were fatally injured by a crush on the Leppings Lane terrace.

From the BBC:

Mr Duckenfield was cleared after a seven-week retrial at Preston Crown Court. Due to the law at the time, there can be no prosecution over the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland. This is because he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were caused.

The jury at Mr Duckenfield's original trial earlier this year failed to agree a verdict.

The court heard he had ordered the opening of exit gates at the Leppings Lane end of the ground at 14:52 BST on 15 April 1989 - eight minutes before kick-off, after the area outside the turnstiles became dangerously overcrowded.

More than 2,000 fans then entered through exit gate C, with many heading for the tunnel ahead of them, which led to the central pens of the terrace where the crush happened.

David Duckenfield has now stood trial 3 times. The first two juries - in Leeds 19 years ago, and in Preston earlier this year - were unable to reach verdicts. Now, at the third time of asking, a jury has made a clear decision about the Hillsborough match commander's criminal liability.


Reader Comments (39)

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Steve Ferns
1 Posted 28/11/2019 at 16:32:49
Hillsborough Verdict: Duckenfield found not guilty of manslaughter. Sad day for us on Merseyside.
Michael Kenrick
2 Posted 28/11/2019 at 17:18:44
No doubt the kopites will be seething with injustice after not getting the result they demanded. But it's a sad fact that disasters like this are very rarely the responsibility of one person, despite the desperate need for victims to have a target to focus their grief and anger.

I just watched the Aberfan episode of The Crown, where the lives of 116 children and 28 adults were snuffed out beneath an avalanche of coal waste slurry that slipped off the side of a mountain, destroying Pantglas School. Heavy rain caused groundwater levels and subsurface water pressures to increase, resulting in liquefaction of the barely stable Tip 7.

The National Coal Board, and its head, Lord Robbens, came in for much criticism, but no-one was ever disciplined or charged, never mind a trial. Although in a sense this was an "Act of God" (what a wonderful being that would do such a thing?), the truth is that the situation was created and could and should have been prevented by man. But the technical knowledge to identify the problem and the managerial responsibility to fix it weren't in place or effective.

Stan Schofield
3 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:12:54
Michael, yes, the main objective after a disaster is to ensure (so far as can be) that disasters are avoided in the future, or it should be if it's not. To do this, underlying causes should be identified, not just the immediate causes. Too often, there is a knee-jerk reaction from politicians to blame someone lower down the food chain, whilst the actions of very senior people in positions of authority (including Government ministers) may be the root causes.

In Aberfan, that 'accident' was reasonably foreseeable and could readily have been avoided if clear warnings which had been raised had been heeded by those in authority. 'Accident' is in inverted commas, because it wasn't a 'random mistake' but a 'systemic failure' of those in authority.

These days, regulatory arrangements to ensure safety are (or should be) focused on identifying potential accidents and avoiding them before they have a chance to happen. Although of course, terrible accidents still happen, as evidenced by the Grenfell Tower fire. There again, the Public Inquiry into that fire is arguably putting too much emphasis on mistakes of emergency services like the fire brigade, and not looking sufficiently at root causes of the fire and the responsibilities of those in high authority, which should be the whole purpose of a Public Inquiry.

There's an old saying in the aviation industry: If the accident doesn't kill the pilot, the public inquiry will.

Steve Ferns
5 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:27:52
Michael, I thought there was enough there to convict Duckenfield. It might not have been solely his fault, but his actions were criminally culpable. He was grossly negligent. I feel justice has not been done and there is already criticism of how prosecution was handled and this will increase in the coming days. The families will feel they are back at square one and this is the worst thing. They deserved some closure.
Stan Schofield
6 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:36:55
Steve, yes, although it's vital to focus on root causes like I mentioned @3, all levels of responsibility need to be held accountable, otherwise avoiding future deaths or injuries is more difficult. In addition to closure for families, there is a need for deterrence, to show those in authority that they are accountable and will be punished if found wanting.
Tony Hill
7 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:43:59
He was acquitted by a jury after a retrial. I'm not sure that it honours or helps anyone to keep going at this.
Tony Abrahams
8 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:45:08
To see the jury framed, couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed, to live in a land where justice is obviously a game. A disgraceful verdict, especially because of its predictability, disgusting.
Peter Neilson
9 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:06:47
My brother's a Red and was there for the Semi in 1988. He said the crush then was terrible so when he went back in 1989 him and his mates steered clear of those pens. No lessons learned as they rarely are.

I find it impossible to believe that, if it wasn't just everyday folk involved, there wouldn't have been a successful prosecution or that it would have taken this long.

Ray Robinson
10 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:22:03
It's a difficult one and I can see both sides of the argument but I want to know why nobody has been prosecuted for the lies and the cover up.
Tony Abrahams
11 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:30:24
The powers that be... maybe... obviously... definitely.
Dennis Stevens
12 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:50:50
96 people unlawfully killed but nobody killed them.
Don Alexander
13 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:58:00
The police papers from that day onwards have been released after a 25 year suppression by the police. They take a lot of reading but from the get-go South Yorks police spent most of their time seeking anything from anyone that'd denigrate scousers at the match. It's obvious.

Thatcher on the city of Liverpool? Nuff said... and then there's the very, very questionable conduct of Bettison, present at the game as a nowt-special chief inspector with 16 years to go until retirement ("special" ones are in that rank way sooner).

He was working from day one in the investigation room but also promoted in three years to superintendent, chief superintendent and assistant chief constable! In three years he went from a nobody to all but top dog. Hmm. Makes you wonder what he knew about who'd done what in the South Yorks police perhaps. And then he was knighted of course. Jeez!

Stan Schofield
14 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:07:50
Don, I think the word for that kind of thing is corruption.
Tony Abrahams
15 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:10:51
Well the ground never had a safety certificate, and Forest were given the much bigger terracing at Hillsborough, even though Liverpool, had a much higher capacity of fans, who watched them play every week.

So Michael K is correct, because more than David Duckenfield was guilty for this absolutely terrible disaster, but he was the match day commander, and he made a misjudgement that caused the deaths of so many people when he never blocked the entrance to those middle pens, before he ordered the gates to be opened.

I hate watching anything to do with Hillsborough, it still makes my eyes water as I block away my tears, because the people who died were doing what we have all done, going the match to watch their football team, but never coming home again.

It fucking kills me, and the fact that a guilty verdict for Duckenfield wouldn't have made a difference to the people who died, it would have given the families of the victims closure, and the bastards wouldn't even give them that.

Dave Abrahams
16 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:35:47
Tony (15),

I understand your anger, you were at Hillsborough that tragic afternoon and I was at Villa Park, never even thought about your safety until I got home and your mam asked me if you'd be okay. She had had a few phone calls, including three from her sisters in America. I just assumed you would be in the stands, never thinking you might have met up with your mates from Liverpool, which thankfully, you hadn't.

Nevertheless, you watched those tragic scenes unfold in front of you, knowing that the entrance to the middle section of the ground was the root cause of the trouble.

A very sad day for the whole of Merseyside that can never be repaired. The real tragedy was that any more people died that day, along with the 96, parents, brothers and sisters other relations and friends; you don't have to lose your life to die.

Ernie Baywood
17 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:44:05
His lies told me he knew immediately how responsible he was for the tragedy.

Within an hour he couldn't defend his own actions, yet the courts have been able to for the rest of his life.

Tragic.

Dave Lynch
18 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:49:34
A sad and avoidable tradgedy that affected so many people in the city (and outside).

Duckenfield was not up to the job, he was only given the position of match commander a few days before the game.

He was put under immense pressure that day and he crumbled, he made the wrong decisions, does that make him a murderer???

Does it make him solely reponsible??? He would/should have been acting on feedback from his colleagues but something went disastrousely wrong.

RIP those poor souls who lost their life that day.

Tony Abrahams
19 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:00:52
Of course many more people died, Dave, or at least a part of them did on that fateful day, but it was the ones who refused to die, refused to accept the lies, and who did so with fantastic dignity, and who are still getting lied to 30 years later. It is these people I feel sickened to the stomach for because they have never had the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Derek Thomas
20 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:04:08
'No verdict' in the first trial, not guilty in the 2nd... deffo a case for the 3rd Scottish verdict of 'not proven', which, in the eyes of most people, usually as good as a guilty.

25 years on and I can still see his face on Sunday afternoon TV. He made a statement... blah, blah, whatever.

His whole body language screamed... what his non-statement said – 'Nobody is going to say anything until we've all gone away and got our stories straight'.

And so they did.

Collectively – aided and abbetted by the media and the establishment (and individually for all I know) they literally got away with murder.

On a personal note, the arl fella was a red, went everywhere. I got home, heard the news, rang home, He was at home, didn't go, said, "I got up and for some reason just didn't fancy going, so I didn't."

Dave Lynch
21 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:15:27
Totally in agreement, Tony. Dukenfield is a coward of the first degree; he lied, of that there is no doubt. But I also get the feeling he was instructed to lie by a higher authority than the police.

The verdict stinks all day of a stitch-up... "You shoulder the blame mate and we'll make sure you're acquitted".

Establishment at its worst.

Peter Neilson
22 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:26:41
Dave (18) Dukenfield was on trial for gross negligence and manslaughter, not murder. He also wasn't on trial as being solely responsible. His role in the chain of events has been established.
Brent Stephens
23 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:33:23
One of the disturbing aspects of the Hillsborough case is the time it takes to get even close to justice, and the institutional cover-ups. It brings to mind cases like the Shrewbury 24 - a group of building workers who participated in a picket in 1972 during a national strike - no trouble on the day of the picket, no police cautions or arrests.

They weren't arrested until 1973 (!) and were prosecuted for conspiracy to intimidate (etc), with three of them (including scouser Ricky Tomlinson - aka Jim Royle in the Royle Family) gaoled for up to three years.

The government blocked the release of documents from the case for 30 years, and in 2015 the documents had still not been released - 42 years later!! As far as I know, that's still the case.

Jim Arnison (2015). The Shrewsbury Three. Lawrence and Wishart, London.

Co-incidentally, is it also Shrewsbury where the health authority appears to have covered-up hundreds of baby deaths over several decades?

Dave Lynch
24 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:49:36
Fair enough Peter.

But I didn't see anyone else standing in the dock with him.
As for murder, I did put question marks after the sentence as some people have accussed him of murder in the past.

I still think there has been a cover up and the truth will never out.

Paul Birmingham
25 Posted 28/11/2019 at 22:02:38
A terrible travesty of justice and sadly, not unexpected.

For me this is a gross injustice and will mask the stinking lies and fabrications conjured up the last 30 years by the police and their efforts to look after thei4 own.

There is no justice and for the normal football fan, sadly this is an indictment on the corruption of the judicial system on this trial.

It stinks.

Jerome Shields
26 Posted 29/11/2019 at 06:05:09
From the start a line was attempted to be drawn under Hillsborough by the authorities and government. The families continue to be denied justice and will have too continue their fight to get it. Sadly there are similar systemtic instances of failure within the Judicial system, which have gone on longer than Hillsborough with no end in sight for families involved.
Jerome Shields
27 Posted 29/11/2019 at 06:05:10
From the start a line was attempted to be drawn under Hillsborough by the authorities and government. The families continue to be denied justice and will have too continue their fight to get it. Sadly there are similar systemtic instances of failure within the Judicial system, which have gone on longer than Hillsborough with no end in sight for families involved.
Fran Mitchell
28 Posted 29/11/2019 at 06:59:33
Disgraceful, and so so predictable, verdict. Once again those in positions of authority and power get let off and those that suffer of us, the ignored masses.

This mans negligence caused the death of 96 scousers.

If it was the negligence of a common worker, he'd have been in prison from day 1. But as it was someone in authority, and as the government had a agenda to place blame onto the unruly scousers, this man has been free for 30 years and will remain free, when he should be locked up.

Derek Knox
29 Posted 29/11/2019 at 11:30:02
Totally ridiculous and such a disappointing outcome for the relatives of those who died, who are left after all this time, without hope of seeing justice for their loved ones.

The amount of time and money that has been expended, to reach this verdict is nothing short of a travesty. We are continually reminded that allegedly we have the best Justice System in the World, try telling those distraught families that!

Andy Crooks
30 Posted 29/11/2019 at 22:25:24
Michael @ 2. The Kopites may well be " seething with injustice",
As an Evertonian I stand with them.
Don Alexander
31 Posted 29/11/2019 at 22:45:32
Regardless of the verdict this week I was and remain appalled that the office of the Police Crime Commissioner for South Yorks funded from public monies a team of about forty employees at Burton Copeland solicitors (Manchester), for way more than a few months before anyone was charged with anything, JUST IN CASE anybody who'd been of senior rank in South Yorks at the time MIGHT end up being charged as a criminal.

I know this because I worked there before resigning in disgust. It did, and still sickens me how "the establishment" are provided for every which way at public expense whilst the public they all profess to serve are simply deceived and cut adrift to fend for themselves.

Every credit indeed to the families.

Rob Dolby
32 Posted 29/11/2019 at 23:10:02
Andy 30 spot on.

The disaster could easily have been Everton v Norwich if it was drawn at Hillsborough instead of villa park. Any fan who went to games around that time especially in south yorkshire were treated worse than animals.

I am astounded at the strength of the families and proud of the fact that our club and Merseyside in general has supported them.

Tony Hill
33 Posted 29/11/2019 at 23:19:34
True, Don @31. These inequities are inscribed. The jury system, though, is precisely designed to protect us all as being presumed innocent; the more so where there is a heavy public consensus for a guilty verdict. We second-guess and traduce that protection at our peril.

Let's trust that all those grieving find peace somehow.

Jimmy Hogan
34 Posted 30/11/2019 at 10:20:47
I've always blamed those dreadful fences that were erected in the 80s. There was just no escape. They were soon removed from all grounds after the tragedy.

I understand the Liverpool fans' anguish about Duckenfield, but I agree that there was more than one cause to blame. No-one was solely responsible.

Ironically, in keeping this matter going for so long, I think the families have prolonged their own agony. If they had accepted earlier that it was an "Act of God", I think they might have found closure sooner.

Alan J Thompson
35 Posted 30/11/2019 at 10:33:04
So what's new? The last time the Establishment did anything for the common people was the NHS. Does anyone seriously believe the outcome in this case would be anything different? Regardless of which football team they support, more power to those who won't give up on righting a wrong.
Eddie Dunn
36 Posted 30/11/2019 at 11:44:34
One of the main factors in so many deaths was the fencing, caging-in the fans. Add to that the poor communication amongst the police and the whole command structure of the police and you have a recipe for disaster. A friend of mine was in the Forest end and they didn't have a clue what was happening until it came over on the radio.

I was at Spurs watching us a couple of weeks later. We were behind the goal and it was beginning to get too full and people were pushing to get up onto the terracing. It was getting very tight in there and there was a lagre empty terrace between us and the Spurs fans. The police were right by us on a platform and we were imploring them to open the gate to the next section. Fans were shouting at them asking them if they had learnt anything from Hillsborough. Tempers were fraying. It took until nearly half-time for their communication and command structure to give the go-ahead. This was a normal Saturday, no hold-ups or massive crowds.

The fact was that football fans were all classed as working class scum. If you were from certain areas, you were despised all the more, the police were unprofessional and lacking in respect, the grounds were unfit for purpose and these days would fail H&S assessments.

There was an institutional cover-up by the establishment. Duckenfield should have been in the dock along with so many others.

Imagine Theatre-goers being treated in such a manner?

Jimmy Hogan
37 Posted 30/11/2019 at 16:46:09
Eddie #36, I was also at Spurs that time in '89. It did get a bit scary and I was one of the lucky ones led upstairs to the spare seats.
Alan McGuffog
38 Posted 01/12/2019 at 11:16:41
Eddie, you echo a point I've made many times. Would people going to the movies or the opera ever have accepted what we accepted for decades? Getting out of the Holt End that same terrible afternoon was a nightmare.

Remember that replay against Southampton in the early eighties? I never got into the game but ended up with torn jeans and horse shit down my leg after being barged by a police horse.

I remember being pissed on, literally, by some twat in the Scoreboard end in the '71 semi-final. I recall making the mistake of being behind a "crush" barrier in the early sixties. I remember my mate losing both shoes in a sway on the Kop.

And we put up with this. We accepted it as normal. It even went down into some macho mythology with some people.

Kevin Molloy
39 Posted 01/12/2019 at 11:39:02
I think charging him with manslaughter of 95 people was probably the wrong charge in hindsight. It probably felt to the jury that the whole debacle was being dumped on one man, and it probably meant the CPS didn't pursue it as vigorously as they might otherwise have done for a lesser charge.

Duckenfield, if he had been tried for just gross negligence, I think there would have been a conviction. Even then though, he had no experience of that sort of game, it was the first time he had done it. Obviously his attempts to divert the blame show the sort of person he is, but Christ, he can't have been expected to know can he the utterly catastrophic implications of opening that gate.

Steve Carter
40 Posted 04/12/2019 at 03:40:00
There's no real difference, Kevin [39]: death resulting from "criminal negligence" is a form of manslaughter.

To establish criminal negligence, the prosecution must convince the jury, beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused consciously and voluntarily did the act that caused the death (although without any intention to cause death or grievous bodily harm) – and the act involved such a great falling short of the standard of care which a reasonable man would have exercised in the circumstances – and that such a high risk that death or grievous bodily harm would follow the doing of the act, that the accused merits criminal punishment. It's a pretty high test.

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