Hillsborough match commander to be awarded legal aid to fight possible prosecution
Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield is set to be awarded 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 has made an order that the former chief superintendent qualifies for legal representation for High Court proceedings next year.
At a previous case management hearing on November 24, Mr Justice William Davis heard from a lawyer acting for Duckenfield free of charge that 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 he cannot be formally charged pending the outcome of the High Court proceedings.
The CPS application was originally due to be heard in January, but will now be in late February.
The venue is yet to be decided. Barrister John Dye, who has been acting for Duckenfield pro-bono, told the judge that he had been 'keen not to put any pressure on public funds and remains so'.
But Duckenfield was in the position that his case for the High Court action had to be 'properly prepared' and he was 'grateful for the assistance he has got'.
Mr Dye has said the High Court application involved 'serious, complex and novel legal arguments in relation to the lifting of the stay'.
It has previously been reported that South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Alan Billings had refused to pay Duckenfield's legal costs.
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.
The Crown Court heard at a previous hearing that those facing charges will attempt to block any prosecution as an 'abuse of process' on the grounds of delay and prejudicial publicity.
The defendants have entered no pleas but all have indicated through their lawyers that they will plead not guilty.
A total of 96 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.