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.
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1 Posted 28/11/2019 at 16:32:49
2 Posted 28/11/2019 at 17:18:44
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.
3 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:12:54
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.
5 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:27:52
6 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:36:55
7 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:43:59
8 Posted 28/11/2019 at 18:45:08
9 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:06:47
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.
10 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:22:03
11 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:30:24
12 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:50:50
13 Posted 28/11/2019 at 19:58:00
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!
14 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:07:50
15 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:10:51
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.
16 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:35:47
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.
17 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:44:05
Within an hour he couldn't defend his own actions, yet the courts have been able to for the rest of his life.
18 Posted 28/11/2019 at 20:49:34
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.
19 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:00:52
20 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:04:08
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."
21 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:15:27
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.
22 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:26:41
23 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:33:23
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?
24 Posted 28/11/2019 at 21:49:36
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.
25 Posted 28/11/2019 at 22:02:38
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.
26 Posted 29/11/2019 at 06:05:09
27 Posted 29/11/2019 at 06:05:10
28 Posted 29/11/2019 at 06:59:33
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.
29 Posted 29/11/2019 at 11:30:02
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!
30 Posted 29/11/2019 at 22:25:24
As an Evertonian I stand with them.
31 Posted 29/11/2019 at 22:45:32
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.
32 Posted 29/11/2019 at 23:10:02
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.
33 Posted 29/11/2019 at 23:19:34
Let's trust that all those grieving find peace somehow.
34 Posted 30/11/2019 at 10:20:47
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.
35 Posted 30/11/2019 at 10:33:04
36 Posted 30/11/2019 at 11:44:34
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?
37 Posted 30/11/2019 at 16:46:09
38 Posted 01/12/2019 at 11:16:41
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.
39 Posted 01/12/2019 at 11:39:02
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.
40 Posted 04/12/2019 at 03:40:00
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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