Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield has no funds to fight possible prosecution

David Duckenfield: Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
David Duckenfield: Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
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Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield does not have funding to fight possible prosecution on charges of gross negligence manslaughter, a judge has heard.

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield does not have funding to fight possible prosecution on charges of gross negligence manslaughter, a judge has heard.

Barrister John Dye, acting for Duckenfield free of charge, told Mr Justice William Davis at a hearing on Friday: "In a nutshell the position is this - we are unfunded."

Mr Dye explained the current situation at a case management hearing at Preston Crown Court, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Former chief superintendent Duckenfield, aged 73, needs funding for legal representation to oppose a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) application at the High Court next year for a stay on prosecution to be lifted.

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.

He faces 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter, but cannot be formally charged pending the outcome of that application.

Mr Dye said the High Court application involved 'serious, complex and novel legal arguments in relation to the lifting of the stay'.

He told the judge: "Our position is, the funding is going to take a while to be resolved, whether legally-aided or by way of insurers.

"Everybody seems to want to pass the buck in this case."

The hearing of the application for the stay to be lifted is currently due to be heard in January.

Mr Dye said he had been acting pro bono for Duckenfield, but there was a possibility that if the hearing went ahead as planned in January he could be 'unrepresented'.

On Thursday, The Star reported that South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner PCC 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'.

Mr Dye said a 'number of avenues are being explored in relation to appealing the decisions of various bodies'.

A judicial review of the PCC's decision was 'something we are considering', he told the judge.

Counsel said: "I think that once criminal proceedings begin - if they ever begin - we will be funded by somebody, but it is this High Court application that we are not funded for."

The judge, who did not make any order restricting reporting of Friday's proceedings, said there should be a further case management hearing early next month in a bid to resolve the funding problem.

In total six people face charges relating to the Hillsborough disaster, with future trials scheduled to be held at Preston Crown Court.

At a previous hearing the Crown Court heard that those facing charges will attempt to block any prosecution as an 'abuse of process' on the grounds of delay and prejudicial publicity.

No pleas have been entered by the defendants but all have indicated through their lawyers that they will plead not guilty.

Ninety six 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.