The commanding police officer on duty during the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster has pleaded not guilty to a charge of "manslaughter by gross negligence." Ninety-six Liverpool supporters died in a crush of fans.
David Duckenfield, the former chief superintendent of South Yorkshire Police, entered his plea by video to Preston Crown Court on Monday after he was charged in connection with the crushing of fans as they were entering Hillsborough Stadium on April 15, 1989. The now 74-year-old Duckenfield (pictured above) was the matchday commander for the FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
A total of 96 people died in the crush, but Duckenfield is facing just 95 counts of "manslaughter by gross negligence." Under the laws of the day, there can be no prosecution for the death of one of the victims, Tony Bland, as he died of his injuries more than a year and a day after the event.
Graham Mackrell, the former secretary of Sheffield Wednesday football club, the owners of the stadium, pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to ensure the safety of fans in the stadium. Three other senior police officers and a lawyer for South Yorkshire Police have been charged with offenses linked to the hiding of evidence or lying about police conduct at the event.
Duckenfield, Mackrell and the three others are scheduled to stand trial next year.
A jury ruled in 2016 that the 96 victims were "unlawfully killed" and that "errors and omissions" by the police had contributed to the disaster. The jury found that the deaths were caused by "crushing in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace, following the admission of a large number of supporters to the stadium through exit gates."
The Hillsborough tragedy led to an inquiry which culminated in the Taylor Report. This resulted in major changes to English football, which were designed to make the match-going experience for supporters safer. The metal fences that were once used to keep supporters penned in their stands were removed and the stadiums that included standing-room sections were converted into all-seating facilities.
pfd/dv (AFP, AP, dpa)