Update from Court
On 26th and 27th February a hearing was held at Preston Crown Court to listen to oral submissions for and against the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) application for the case to proceed on a voluntary bill of indictment, so that David Duckenfield could be charged with 95 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. This application was necessary as, after a private prosecution in 2000, a legal “stay” was put in place preventing Mr Duckenfield from being charged with these offences again.
The judge, Sir Peter Openshaw DL, granted the CPS application for the voluntary bill of indictment to allow Mr Duckenfield to apply for legal aid funding in order to be able to defend himself for the next stage of the process. This means the judge has formally started the criminal court proceedings. The next stage will be the abuse of process hearings which will begin on 11th June 2018. The merits of lifting the "stay" order which was imposed in 2000 will also be considered. Operation Resolve remain focussed on working with the CPS ahead of these hearings which is listed to run for two weeks
Statement from Operation Resolve
Officer in Overall Command, Assistant Commissioner Rob Beckley said, “The decision to prosecute Match Commander, David Duckenfield for the offence of Gross Negligence Manslaughter, and the then Secretary of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club PLC, Graham Mackrell for safety breaches, comes after the most detailed and substantial investigation there has ever been into the Hillsborough disaster.
“Our inquiry looked at all aspects of the event including the planning and the preparation for the game, the safety of the stadium and the response by the emergency services. Our inquiry has seen over 17,000 lines of enquiry and we have taken statements off over 11,000 people, from police officers, spectators, emergency personnel and officials from different organisations.
“From our enquiries we referred 12 individuals and 3 organisations to the CPS for them to consider whether any of these 15 should face criminal action. It was important to us that the CPS were an arbiter of our investigation applying independent judgement in relation to possible offences.
“Operation Resolve will now continue to work with the Crown Prosecution Service and Counsel as the case moves onto the next stage and we prepare for legal proceedings.
“Our work under the Police Reform Act and the allegations of police misconduct remains ongoing and whilst the criminal prosecutions are foremost in our mind, the publishing of these reports is a very important task for us as they provide a detailed account of the actions of the police on the day.
“We will continue to meet with families of the bereaved and where appropriate, support and assist them where possible. It is hugely important for me to stress the need for people to respect the criminal process that awaits us. People should be mindful that the case is now active and avoid prejudicing the proceedings through any public communications including social media.”
You can read about the CPS's decisions in full by clicking visiting their website.
Hillsborough investigations refer evidence to Crown Prosecution Service
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and Operation Resolve have referred files of evidence relating to 23 suspects from their Hillsborough investigations to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide whether criminal charges should follow.
Of these, 15 suspects relate to Operation Resolve’s investigation into the causes of the disaster. The potential offences for consideration include gross negligence manslaughter, perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office and offences under the Safety of Sports Ground Act 1975 and Health and Safety at Work legislation.
A further eight individuals relate to the IPCC’s independent investigation into both South Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police and the alleged cover-up of the disaster. The potential offences for consideration include perverting the course of justice, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office.
The CPS will consider any other relevant offences on the evidence presented by both investigation teams.
Both the IPCC and Operation Resolve teams have worked closely with the CPS during the investigation and will remain on hand to support the CPS throughout this decision-making period, undertaking any additional tasks as required.
Over 170 allegations of police misconduct continue to be investigated by both teams.
Updates will continue to be provided to the families of the 96 and their representatives.
A referral to the CPS does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow.
Sue Hemming, Head of CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said:
“Having received files from both Hillsborough investigations, we will now assess these in order to determine whether we have sufficient material on which to make charging decisions. Charging decisions will be based on the tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”
AC Robert Beckley, Officer in Overall Command of Operation Resolve said:
“Our task has been to investigate whether any individual or organisation is criminally culpable for their role either in the planning and preparation for the match or on the day of the game itself.
“The extensive file we have submitted, which contains over 35 million words, reflects four years of intense work from my team. As well as conducting a criminal investigation, for three years we also supported the coronial process in providing the coroner with thousands of documents, witness statements and reports to assist him in conducting the inquests.”
IPCC Deputy Chair Rachel Cerfontyne said:
“These criminal investigations into the circumstances surrounding the Hillsborough disaster are the largest investigations into alleged police wrongdoing ever undertaken in England and Wales.
“Conducting an inquiry of this scale and complexity, while supporting the longest running inquests in British legal history, has been a significant undertaking for the IPCC. Our criminal investigation has now substantially concluded.”