Hillsborough match commander wins funding to fight manslaughter prosecution bid


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

News of the development came on Monday at a hearing at Preston Crown Court, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

A judge ordered that the former chief superintendent qualifies for legal representation for High Court proceedings, next year.

Deadly overcrowding at Hillsborough in 1989, which would claim the lives of 96 people.
Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, trying to escape severe overcrowding during the FA Cup semi-final football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest (David Giles/PA)

At a previous hearing on November 24, Mr Justice William Davis heard from a lawyer acting for Duckenfield free of charge there was no funding to oppose a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) application for a stay on prosecution to be lifted.

In making a "representation order", the judge said the High Court application involved factual and legal issues of complexity and "significant public importance".

A stay on further prosecution was awarded to 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.

Duckenfield, now 73, faces 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter, but cannot be formally charged pending the outcome of the High Court proceedings.

What went wrong at Hillsborough.
Hillsborough: what went wrong (PA Graphics)

The CPS application was originally due to be heard in January, but will now be in late February.

Barrister John Dye, who has been acting for Duckenfield pro-bono, 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 people in total face charges relating to the Hillsborough disaster, with future trials scheduled to be held at Preston Crown Court.

All have indicated 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.