Hillsborough retrial reaction: families’ fury at not guilty verdict

Match commander cleared of gross negligence manslaughter


Hillsborough campaigners have reacted with anger and hurt after match commander David Duckenfield was found not guilty of the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans in the 1989 disaster.

There were gasps in court as the former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent, 75, was acquitted after the jury spend three days considering their verdict.

The BBC points out that Duckenfield does not dispute that he ordered the opening of a gate at Hillsborough to let fans in, nor that he failed to close the tunnel to the terraces that were already full.

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At an inquest in 2015, he accepted that these decisions were the direct cause of 96 deaths.

In court, the prosecution argued Duckenfield had a “personal responsibility” for what happened at the match but his defence counsel argued it was “deeply unfair” to make him “the focus of blame” because “there are so many other people at fault, and so many causes”.

Reaction began the moment the verdict was read. Mary Corrigan, the mother of 17-year-old victim Keith McGrath, shouted: “Stitched up again.”

Then, Christine Burke, whose father Henry was killed, stood in the public gallery and told the judge: “With all due respect, my lord, 96 people were found unlawfully killed to a criminal standard.”

Louise Brookes, whose 26-year-old brother Andrew was killed, told reporters afterwards: "I'm ashamed to be British. I'm ashamed of this country and things have got to change.”

Margaret Aspinall, who lost 18-year-old son James in the disaster and who heads the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “Sitting in court I felt like I was the accused and he was the victim. We were behind a glass screen while Duckenfield sat, not in the dock, but on the benches with his lawyers.

Liverpool FC said it shared “the reactions and frustrations by the families today and those affected by the Hillsborough tragedy”.

The city's mayor Joe Anderson added: “Today's outcome is a huge disappointment for the families, the survivors and for all of those still trying to come to terms with the disaster.”

Judith Moritz, the BBC’s North of England correspondent, says that though Duckenfield “will now be able to resume his life in retirement on the south coast,” the Hillsborough families and survivors “will find the outcome hard to take”.

The former match commander's solicitor, Ian Lewis, said: “David is of course relieved that the jury has found him not guilty, however his thoughts and sympathies remain with the families of those who lost their loved ones.”

With 96 deaths and 766 injuries, Hillsborough is the worst disaster in British sporting history. The prosecution did not consider the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, because he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were caused.

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