Liverpool

Hillsborough disaster: Safety officer Graham Mackrell fined £6,500

Graham Mackrell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell had responsibility for safety at Hillsborough stadium

The stadium safety officer in charge at the time of the Hillsborough disaster has been fined £6,500.

Former secretary of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, Graham Mackrell, is the first person to be convicted of an offence relating to the tragedy.

Mackrell, 69, of Stocking Pelham, Hertfordshire, failed to ensure there were enough turnstiles to prevent large crowds building up.

He was also ordered to pay £5,000 towards the prosecution costs.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died following the crush in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989.

Image caption The people who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster

Mackrell sat in the well of the court rather than the dock for the sentencing hearing at Preston Crown Court.

He was found guilty last month after an 11-week trial of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act in respect of ensuring there were enough turnstiles to prevent unduly large crowds building up outside the ground.

The jury in the trial was unable to reach a verdict over match commander David Duckenfield, 74, who denied the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans.

The court heard there were seven turnstiles available for the 10,100 Liverpool fans with standing tickets.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw said: "He should have realised there was an obvious risk that so many spectators could not pass through seven turnstiles in time for kick-off."

But Judge Openshaw said Mackrell's offence did not directly cause the disaster inside the ground.

He said: "The defendant's offence was at least one of the direct causes of the crush at the turnstiles outside the ground but it was not a direct cause of the crush on the terraces inside the ground that resulted in the deaths of 96 spectators and injury to many more, to which the crush outside the ground did no more than set the scene."

Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption The jury heard 96 men, women and children died as a result of a fatal crush on the Leppings Lane terrace

In a statement, Mackrell said he was "grateful" the judge had recognised "my conduct did not cause or contribute to the death of any person or cause any person to be injured on that tragic day".

He added: "Despite that, I do wish to take this opportunity to make clear my sympathy to all those impacted by this appalling tragedy.

"No-one should have to go through what the families have experienced."

Outside court, Louise Brookes, whose brother Andrew died at Hillsborough, called the sentence "shameful" and said the fine amounted to £67.70 per life lost.

"Our 96 deserve better than this and us families deserve better than this. We are all getting on in age and enough is enough," she said.

"My weekly shopping costs more than £67.70."

'Promoted'

Christine Burke, whose father Henry died in the disaster, added: "When Hillsborough happened he [Mackrell] was in charge of the safety certificate at the time and he should have been sacked straight away.

"He went on to bigger and better things, he was promoted. This is a man who has been paid very well and gone on to do other things. That should not have happened."

The court heard Mackrell made £700 a week in his job as administrator for the Football League Managers' Association and earned an additional £670 a week from pensions.

A hearing to decide whether Mr Duckenfield will face a retrial is expected to be held next month.

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

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