Hillsborough disaster: David Duckenfield to receive public legal funding

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield is to get legal aid to fight possible prosecution on charges of gross negligence manslaughter.

Dec 4, 2017

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield is to get legal aid to fight possible prosecution on charges of gross negligence manslaughter. News that he will receive public funding came on Monday (December 4) at a hearing at Preston Crown Court, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. A judge ordered that the former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent qualifies for legal representation for High Court proceedings, next year. In making a “representation order”, the judge said the High Court application involved factual and legal issues of complexity and “significant public importance”. Last month the former chief superintendent sought financial assistance – asking South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) Dr Alan Billings “if necessary [for] the costs of his defence on the charges”. That bid was rejected by the PCC, revealing through a decision notice on his website that Mr Duckenfield had previously received £7.6 million in financial assistance with his?Hillsborough?legal costs. Dr Billings said it was not appropriate to fund the request while Mr Duckenfield’s lawyer said his client had “no comment to make”. A stay on further prosecution was awarded to Mr Duckenfield in 2000 after a private prosecution was brought by the families of those who lost relatives during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground in April 1989. Now 73, he faces 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter, but cannot be formally charged pending the outcome of the High Court proceedings. Barrister John Dye, who has been acting for Mr Duckenfield, told the judge the application involved “serious, complex and novel legal arguments in relation to the lifting of the stay”. The funding applied for was for the retired officer to oppose the CPS bid to lift the stay, and for financial assistance “if necessary” for the costs of his “defence on the charges”. Six suspects – including former West Yorkshire and Merseyside chief constable Sir Norman Bettison and three other retired senior officers – face charges relating to the Hillsborough disaster, with future trials scheduled to be held at Preston Crown Court in 2018 and 2019. All have indicated they will plead not guilty. Ahead of the scheduled trials they intend to mount an ‘abuse of process’ application, although the specific grounds have not been made public. Mr Duckenfield is expected to go on trial sometime in September 2018 alongside Graham Mackrell, the former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary, who faces health and safety and sports ground safety offences. Three other defendants – ex-Chief Superintendent Donald Denton, former Detective Chief Inspector Foster, and retired force solicitor Peter Metcalf, who acted for South Yorkshire Police following the 1989 disaster – are scheduled to go on trial in January 2019. Ninety six Liverpool fans were crushed to death in pens at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough Stadium on April 15, 1989 as their FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest began.

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