The police match commander on the day of the Hillsborough disaster will be charged with manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 people, while five other people will face other criminal charges for their conduct in relation to the tragedy.
It is the first time the Crown Prosecution Service has brought criminal charges in relation to the disaster, in which 96 Liverpool FC supporters were crushed to death during an FA Cup semi-final in April 1989.
The CPS informed the victims' families of the charging decisions in a private meeting in Warrington on Wednesday. It then confirmed in a statement that those charged include:
– David Duckenfield, the match commander on the day of the disaster, is charged with "the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 men, women and children". The CPS said his "failures to discharge his personal responsibility were extraordinarily bad and contributed substantially" to all 96 deaths, but they were unable to charge him over one fatality because the man died four years after the match.
– Graham Henry Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday's company secretary and safety officer at the time of the disaster, is charged with with two safety offences contrary to the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 and one offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
– Peter Metcalf, a solicitor who acted for South Yorkshire police during the first Hillsborough inquest and the Taylor review, is charged with perverting the course of justice in relation to "material changes to witness statements".
– Donald Denton, former chief superintendent of South Yorkshire police, and Alan Foster, also a former chief superintendent of South Yorkshire police, are both charged with perverting the course of justice.
– Norman Bettison, a former police officer with South Yorkshire police and later chief constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire police, is charged with four offences of misconduct in public office relating to telling alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough.
Sue Hemming, the head of the CPS's special crime and counterterrorism division, said in the statement: "Following our careful review of the evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, I have decided that there is sufficient evidence to charge six individuals with criminal offences."
"Criminal proceedings have now commenced and the defendants have a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings."
Some of the charges relate to Operation Resolve, the police investigation into the causes of the disaster, while others relate to an Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry into the actions taken by South Yorkshire police in the days and weeks afterwards, including an alleged cover-up.
A decision on possible charges relating to West Midlands police has been delayed by the CPS.
The IPCC investigation alone took 4,000 statements and conducted 1,200 interviews with witnesses, journalists, police officers, and MPs.
A dossier of evidence detailing evidence about 23 potential suspects was handed to the CPS in January.
The CPS confirmed that no charges would be brought against six other police officers who were investigated as part of Operation Resolve in relation to their role in planning match policing. Hemming noted that while there was "evidence of failure to meet the standards of leadership rightly expected of their respective ranks", this wasn't sufficient to bring any charges.
Sheffield Wednesday FC, who still play at Hillsborough, will not face charges. The South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service and the Football Association will also not be charged.
An inquest in April 2016 ruled that all 96 victims were unlawfully killed, after a sustained and gruelling legal campaign from the victims' families. The jury ruled by a majority verdict that the fans died due to "gross negligence" on the part of Duckenfield, who was in charge of police operations.
The result of an earlier inquest that concluded in 1991 was quashed in 2012. When ordering a new inquest, the then lord chief justice made clear that the fans themselves were not responsible for the disaster.
"Within a very short time it was being peddled about that this disaster was one more consequence of the kind of hooliganism which had manifested itself at and around football matches during the 1980s," he said.
"There was therefore fertile ground for the acceptance of rumour, gossip, and deliberate misinformation. In short the disaster was attributed to the drunken misbehaviour of the fans, and the Liverpool fans in particular."
The Hillsborough families' quest for justice has been going on so long that that several of the key campaigners died before the 2016 inquest and the announcement of Wednesday's charges.
Ian Lewis, a partner at JMW Solicitors, who is representing Duckenfield Denton, said in a statement: "In light of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to commence criminal proceedings against David Duckenfield and Donald Denton, it would be inappropriate for me as their solicitor or for my clients themselves to make any comment."