Six men due in court in bid to block prosecutions over Hillsborough disaster

A total of 96 football fans died at the Hillsborough disaster
A total of 96 football fans died at the Hillsborough disaster

Six men are due in court today in a bid to block their prosecutions over the Hillsborough disaster.

Lawyers for police match day commander David Duckenfield and five other men will make applications on their behalf to presiding judge Sir Peter Openshaw in a hearing at Preston Crown Court which is due to start today and expected to last up to 10 days.

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At a previous hearing last year it was outlined that all six would apply to stay any prosecution over the disaster that claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans as an 'abuse of process'.

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Also to be addressed is a separate application from the Crown Prosecution Service to lift an historical stay of further legal proceedings against Duckenfield.

It was imposed by a now-retired judge in 2000 when the former chief superintendent faced trial in a private prosecution brought by families.

Duckenfield, 73, faces 95 charges of gross negligence manslaughter following the crush in the terrace pens of the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday's stadium at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15.

Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were caused.

Duckenfield is set go on trial in September at Preston Crown Court alongside Graham Mackrell, 68 - the former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary - who is charged with two offences involving the stadium's safety certificate and a health and safety offence.

Three other defendants - retired police officers Donald Denton, 80, and Alan Foster, 71, and retired solicitor Peter Metcalf, 68, who acted for South Yorkshire Police following the 1989 disaster - are scheduled to go on trial in January 2019.

They are each charged with two offences of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice relating to amendments made to police officers' statements following the tragedy.

Ex-chief constable of Merseyside Police and West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettison, 62, faces trial in May 2019.

He was a chief inspector at South Yorkshire Police in 1989 and is charged with four counts of misconduct in a public office over alleged lies in accounts he gave afterwards of his involvement in the disaster.

The five defendants charged have previously indicated they would plead not guilty to all the counts against them.