Hillsborough disaster: families livid over sentencing

The man responsible for ground safety at the Hillsborough stadium has been fined £6,500 over his role in the 1989 tragedy that killed 96 people.

May 14, 2019
By Website Editor
96 Liverpool supporters were killed in the 1989 FA Cup semi-final tie between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool

Graham Mackrell, the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club secretary at the time of the disaster, was sentenced on Monday (May 13) for health and safety failings that took place before the crush in lower terraces of the West stand.

Last month Mr Mackrell became the only person to be convicted in respect of the tragedy. He was found guilty of not ensuring there were enough turnstiles available at the Leppings Lane end of the ground where there was a build-up of Liverpool supporters trying to get into the stadium as the FA Cup semi-final was about to kick-off.

Pressure on the turnstiles led to an exit gate being opened and a surge of fans into pens on an overcrowded terrace, resulting in the death of 96 fans.

Victims’ relatives attacked the sentence as “shameful”, however, the trial judge said Mr Mackrell’s offence did not cause the disaster inside the ground, but he should have realised that the seven turnstiles were not enough for the 10,100 Liverpool supporters who had standing tickets.

He faced three charges, but two counts of contravening terms and conditions of the ground’s safety certificate were dropped during the trial.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw said: “The defendant’s offence was at least one of the direct causes of the crush at the turnstiles outside the ground but it was not a direct cause of the crush on the terraces inside the ground that resulted in the deaths of 96 spectators and injury to many more, to which the crush outside the ground did no more than set the scene.”

Mr Mackrell was tried alongside the match commander, former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter for his part in the disaster.

Judge Openshaw said the fine reflected sentencing guidelines at the time and amounted to 600 per cent of Mr Mackrell’s weekly income. However, had he been sentenced under the guidelines of today he could have faced a maximum of two years in prison.

Mr Mackrell was also ordered to pay £5,000 towards prosecution costs.

Christine Burke, whose father Henry died in the disaster, said she was “absolutely livid” when the judge said Mr Mackrell was a man of good character as he had refused to answer the 22 questions put to him by investigators from Operation Resolve – the police inquiry set up in 2012 following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report.

Louise Brookes, whose brother Andrew died in the disaster on April 15, 1989, said: “Our 96 are dead and all it’s worth is £67.70 each. Shameful. Thirty years to get to this. Our 96 deserve better than this and us families deserve better than this. We are all getting on in age and enough is enough.

“My weekly shopping costs more than £67.70.”

A hearing is due to take place next month to decide if Mr Duckenfield should face a retrial.

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