Hillsborough Match Commander to Face 95 Manslaughter Counts
LONDON — Nearly three decades after the worst stadium disaster in the history of British soccer, a police commander will face 95 counts of manslaughter in the deaths of soccer fans who were trampled and crushed at a match in England in 1989, prosecutors said on Friday.
The decision by a judge to proceed to trial in the case of David Duckenfield represents the latest victory in a long quest for justice by the families of the dead, who included 37 teenagers. Mr. Duckenfield, then a chief superintendent in the South Yorkshire Police, was in charge of security for the match.
More than 700 people were injured in the disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, which emerged as a political flash point over the role of wealth and class in British life.
For many years, the authorities, with the support of some news organizations, sought to suggest that the fans were largely responsible for their own deaths. The families of the victims and survivors fiercely rejected those claims.
The Crown Prosecution Service filed charges last June against six people, including Mr. Duckenfield. On Friday, the judge, Peter Openshaw, said at Preston Crown Court that the case against Mr. Duckenfield and four others could proceed, lifting an 18-year-old legal order that would have prevented prosecution.
“The C.P.S. will now continue preparations for the trial of David Duckenfield on 95 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence,” said Sue Hemming, the head of the service’s special crime and counterterrorism division.
Graham Henry Mackrell, a former secretary of Sheffield Wednesday, the soccer club that operates Hillsborough Stadium, will face charges of violating safety laws. Three others — Peter Metcalf, who was a lawyer for South Yorkshire Police, and two high-ranking police officers at the time, Donald Denton and Alan Foster, will face trial on charges of perverting justice.
The trial of Mr. Duckenfield and Mr. Mackrell is scheduled to begin on Sept. 10, according to court documents, and the other three men will face trial in 2019, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.
A decision on whether to lift an order that would prevent prosecution of another senior police officer, Norman Bettison, was delayed until Aug. 21.
Ninety-six people perished in the tragedy, when the police opened a gate in a misguided effort to alleviate overcrowding outside the stadium.
Manslaughter charges could not be filed in one fatality, that of Tony Bland, who died after spending nearly four years in a vegetative state, because too much time had passed between the events at the stadium and his death.
Palko Karasz contributed reporting.