Nearly thirty years to the day 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives following the Hillsborough stadium disaster, a jury was unable to reach a verdict on charges of gross negligence manslaughter against the police officer in charge of public safety that day.
Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield, now 74, denied the charges against him in connection with the deaths of 95 people at the 1989 tragedy. He wasn’t charged over the death of the 96th victim who died more than a year later.
The jury at Preston Crown Court spent eight days deliberating, and had been told by judge Sir Peter Openshaw on Monday that he would accept a majority verdict.
Yet the jury was discharged early Wednesday after being unable to reach a decision.
The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told CNN that it will now seek a retrial in front of a new jury after what had been an “incredibly complex” trial. However, the CPS said it understood Duckenfield’s defense team would seek to stay proceedings.
The jury did find Graham Mackrell, former secretary of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, guilty on a separate charge of breaching his safety duty. He will be sentenced on May 13.
Mackrell was a safety officer for the club’s Hillsborough ground at the time of the disaster which happened during an FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham forest.
‘Outcome of mixed emotions’
There have been a number of inquiries into the Hillsborough disaster, including the 1990 Taylor Report, the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel Report and the 2016 Hillsborough Inquest.
Liverpool city mayor, Joe Anderson, said the “outcome will be one of mixed emotions for the families, the survivors and for all of those still trying to come to terms with the disaster.”
A joint statement by Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool region, and Andy Burnham, the current mayor of Manchester said: “we know the families will be feeling a mixture of frustration and vindication.”
Burnham was a prominent voice for the Hillsborough families while part of the Labour government between 2009 and 2010.
Liverpool Football Club said in a statement “we empathize with the frustration shared by everyone affected by the Hillsborough tragedy that the outcome was not definitive.
“Our thoughts are with all those who continue to be affected by the Hillsborough tragedy and the 96 Liverpool supporters who went to watch their team and never came home.”
The UK’s Press Association reported that the prosecution argued Duckenfield had the “ultimate responsibility” for safety at the ground and should have had the knowledge to make “key life-saving decisions.”
However, the defense stated the case was “breathtakingly unfair” and that Duckenfield had “tried to do the right thing,” according to PA.
All-seater stadiums became compulsory in the Premier League and the Championship – English football’s second tier – after Hillsborough.