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article imageFive in court over Hillsborough disaster

By AFP     Aug 9, 2017 in World

Five men charged over the Hillsborough football stadium disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died, appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday, 28 years on from the tragedy.

The five, who include three former police officers, appeared at Warrington Magistrates' Court in northwest England.

The defendants walked past relatives of the victims as they entered the court, around 15 miles (25 kilometres) from Liverpool.

Following a 25-minute hearing dealing with largely administrative matters, the case was passed up to Preston Crown Court in northwest England.

No formal pleas were entered by the defendants, who spoke only to confirm their names, ages and addresses.

Former chief constable Norman Bettison arrives for a court appearance in connection with the 1989 Hi...
Former chief constable Norman Bettison arrives for a court appearance in connection with the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster, at Warrington Magistrates' Court, northwest England, on August 9, 2017

District Judge Emma Arbuthnot told them: "You are being sent under various provision to Preston Crown Court and the first appearance there will be on September 6.

"If you don't attend there will be a warrant for your arrest and the case will take place without you. I'm sure you will attend."

The 1989 fatal crush took place at Sheffield Wednesday's ground in Yorkshire, northern England, at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Former chief constable Norman Bettison appeared in court along with fellow retired officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster, former Sheffield Wednesday Football Club secretary Graham Mackrell, and lawyer Peter Metcalf, who acted for the local South Yorkshire Police force following the disaster.

Bettison is charged with four offences of misconduct in public office, relating to telling alleged lies he told in accounts of his involvement in the disaster afterwards.

Metcalf, Denton and Foster are charged with acting with intent to pervert the course of public justice, relating to material changes made to witness statements.

Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday's company secretary and safety officer at the time, is charged with two offences of contravening a term of condition of a safety certificate.

He is also charged with failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others who may have been affected by his acts or omissions.

David Duckenfield, the police match day commander, faces 95 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

However, he will not be formally charged until an application to lift a stay imposed after a prosecution in 2000 has been approved by a High Court judge.

The Crown Prosecution Service, England's state prosecutors, say there will be no manslaughter charges over the death of the 96th casualty, Anthony Bland, as he died almost four years later, and under the law in 1989 his death is now "out of time" to be prosecuted.

The CPS announced the decision to press charges against six suspects in June.

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