Foot­ball of­fi­cial is first found guilty over Hills­bor­ough

Daily Mail - - Brexit In Crisis - By James Tozer and Liz Hull

A FOR­MER foot­ball club of­fi­cial yes­ter­day became the first per­son to be con­victed over the Hills­bor­ough tragedy.

Gra­ham Mack­rell, 69, was found guilty of a health and safety of­fence over the match on April 15, 1989, and now faces an un­lim­ited fine.

How­ever, ju­rors failed to reach a ver­dict on whether the po­lice com­man­der at the FA Cup semi-fi­nal, David Duck­en­field, was re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of 95 foot­ball fans.

The 74-year-old could now face a re­trial for man­slaugh­ter by gross neg­li­gence – but his lawyers hope to have the case thrown out.

Mack­rell, the for­mer sec­re­tary of Sh­effield Wed­nes­day, was con­victed un­der the Health and Safety at Work Act in re­la­tion to the fact that 10,000 fans had to file through just seven turn­stiles at the club’s ground.

Mack­rell did not give ev­i­dence, but Ja­son Beer QC, de­fend­ing, ar­gued the build-up of crowds was caused by other fac­tors, in­clud­ing a lack of po­lice cor­dons and the un­usual ar­rival pat­tern of fans.

Mean­while Richard Matthews QC, pros­e­cut­ing, had told the trial that Duck­en­field’s ‘ex­traor­di­nar­ily bad fail­ures’ made him ‘ per­son­ally re­spon­si­ble’ for the deaths. For le­gal rea­sons he could not be pros­e­cuted over a 96th vic­tim – Tony Bland – who was left in a veg­e­ta­tive state and died four years later.

In­stead of de­lay­ing kick-off, Pre­ston Crown Court heard, Duck­en­field agreed to open an ex­te­rior gate to re­lieve pres­sure from sup­port­ers out­side the ground.

But Mr Matthews claimed he gave no thought to the con­se­quences, and thou­sands were fun­nelled into two ‘al­ready packed’ pens, caus­ing a deadly crush.

Duck­en­field’s de­fence coun­sel, Ben My­ers QC, told the trial that it would be un­fair to sin­gle him out for all the blame.

Both de­fen­dants re­mained stony­faced as the jury fore­man said they could not reach a ver­dict on Duck­en­field. How­ever, they found Mack­rell guilty by a ma­jor­ity.

Fol­low­ing the hear­ing, Mar­garet Aspinall, chair­man of the Hills­bor­ough Fam­ily Sup­port Group, said: ‘We were all hop­ing we would have some clo­sure to­day and we haven’t. We have still got a long jour­ney.’

Mack­rell, of Stock­ing Pel­ham, Hert­ford­shire, will be sen­tenced next month. Lawyers for Duck­en­field, of Fern­down, Dorset, will ar­gue that he should not face a re­trial at a hear­ing in June.

‘Hop­ing we would have clo­sure’

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