Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary to be sentenced over Hillsborough disaster

Sheffield Wednesday’s former club secretary is to be sentence today over the Hillsborough disaster.

Monday, 13th May 2019, 6:53 am
Graham Mackrell (Pic: PA/Peter Byrne)

Graham Mackrell, aged 69, was found guilty of a health and safety offence related to the disaster following a trial.

Graham Mackrell (Pic: PA/Peter Byrne)

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He was the club’s safety officer at the time of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final when 96 football fans died after being crushed on the terraces.

Mackrell was found guilty of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act in respect of ensuring there were enough turnstiles to prevent unduly large crowds building up outside the ground.

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Liverpool fans died following a crush in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989, after exit gates to the ground were opened to relieve a build-up of crowds outside.

Mackrell, of Stocking Pelham in Hertfordshire, is to be sentenced at Preston Crown Court.

The former club secretary, the first person to be convicted for an offence relating to the disaster, was found guilty by a majority of 10 to two on April 3 following an 11-week trial.

During the trial, stadium safety expert John Cutlack told the court there were not sufficient turnstiles for fans on the day.

But Jason Beer QC, defending Mackrell, argued the build-up outside was caused by other factors, including a lack of police cordons and the unusual arrival pattern of fans.

Eight character references for Mackrell were read to the jury, including statements from former England caretaker boss Howard Wilkinson and Roy Hattersley, now Baron Hattersley - the Sheffield-born former Labour MP and now life peer.

In his statement, Mr Wilkinson, chairman of the League Managers Association, said he had worked with Mackrell when he was manager of Sheffield Wednesday between 1983 and 1988, and described him as ‘competent, proficient and trustworthy’.

Mackrell had originally faced three charges relating to the disaster, but two counts of contravening terms or conditions of the ground's safety certificate were dropped during proceedings.

He stood trial alongside South Yorkshire Police match commander David Duckenfield but, after deliberating for 29 hours and six minutes, the jury failed to reach a verdict on whether the former chief superintendent was guilty of the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 of the victims.

A hearing to decide whether Duckenfield will face a retrial is expected to be held next month.

Press Association.