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Hillsborough tragedy accused to mount ‘abuse of process' challenge
07 Sep 2017

<b><i>Leppings Lane: Hillsborough 1989</b></i>
Leppings Lane: Hillsborough 1989
Six suspects including three retired South Yorkshire Police officers and a force solicitor accused of offences related to the Hillsborough disaster will attempt to block any prosecution.

The six – including former West Yorkshire and Merseyside chief constable Sir Norman Bettison – are due to go on trial at Preston Crown Court on various dates in late 2018 and 2019.

Ahead of the scheduled trials they intend to mount an "abuse of process" application, although the specific grounds have not been made public.

At Preston Crown Court on Wednesday (September 6), lawyers for the defendants argued that future trials should be held outside of the North West of England to ensure they received a fair hearing.

But Mr Justice William Davis ruled Preston would be an "appropriate and proper" venue for the trial.

Not in court on Wednesday was match day commander ex-Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, 72, who was in charge of the force's operation at Hillsborough on the day. He faces 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter but will not be formally charged and appear in court with the other five until an application to lift a stay imposed after a prosecution in 2000 has been approved by a High Court judge.

Wednesday's hearing was told that Mr Duckenfield would go on trial sometime in September 2018 alongside Graham Mackrell, 67, the former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary, who faces health and safety and sports ground safety offences.

Three other defendants – ex-Chief Superintendent Donald Denton, 79, former Detective Chief Inspector Foster, 70, and retired force solicitor Peter Metcalf, 67, who acted for South Yorkshire Police following the 1989 disaster – are scheduled to go on trial in January 2019.

They all face charges of perverting the course of justice relating to changes to the witness statements given by police officers.

The trial of 61-year-old Sir Norman – accused of four offences of misconduct in public office over alleged lies in accounts of his involvement in the disaster – is scheduled for May 2019.

The dates and the venue of Preston Crown Court are provisional.

All the defendants, apart from Mr Duckenfield, appeared in the dock at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday as lawyers for the prosecution and defence discussed pre-trial matters.

About 20 family members of the victims who died in the disaster sat yards away in the public gallery, overlooking the court packed with 36 lawyers and watched by 20 members of the media in the Press gallery.

No pleas have been entered but all have indicated through their lawyers at an earlier hearing that they will plead not guilty.

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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