Liverpool

Hillsborough disaster: David Duckenfield to receive legal funding

David Duckenfield Image copyright Reuters
Image caption David Duckenfield was the South Yorkshire Police match commander at the FA Cup semi-final

David Duckenfield will receive public funding to fight any prosecution for the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 football fans at Hillsborough.

The match commander at the 1989 disaster cannot be charged unless a stay of prosecution - imposed following legal proceedings in 2000 - is lifted.

At a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, a judge ruled the former chief superintendent, now 73, qualifies for legal representation.

The costs will be met by the taxpayer.

South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings last month refused to pay Mr Duckenfield's legal costs.

The stay of prosecution has been in force since a private action 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 on 15 April 1989.

Mr Duckenfield, who has now retired, has sought funding to oppose attempts by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to get that stay of prosecution lifted.

He also wanted financial assistance, "if necessary", for the costs of his "defence on the charges" if they are ultimately brought.

The CPS application was originally due to be heard in January, but will now be considered in late February at a venue yet to be decided.

Five others have been charged in relation to the Hillsborough disaster, with trials scheduled for Preston Crown Court. All five have not yet entered pleas.

A total of 96 Liverpool fans were fatally crushed during the stadium disaster but, for legal reasons, charges cannot be brought over the death of the final victim, Tony Bland, since he died four years later.

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