LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's state prosecution service on Wednesday (June 28) announced criminal charges against six people over the 1989 Hillsborough soccer stadium crush in which 96 fans died, the country's worst sporting disaster.
The victims, all Liverpool supporters, died in an overcrowded, fenced-in enclosure at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, northern England, during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Police at first blamed the tragedy on drunken fans, an explanation that was always rejected by the families of the victims and the wider Liverpool community. Relatives campaigned for justice for the 96 for decades.
"I have decided that there is sufficient evidence to charge six individuals with criminal offences," said Ms Sue Hemming, head of the special crime and counter-terrorism division at the Crown Prosecution Service, in a statement.
Relatives of the victims, who were told of the decision to bring charges in private shortly before it was made public, were seen embracing outside the building where they were briefed in Warrington, northern England. One man pumped his fist.
David Duckenfield, a former police chief superintendent who was in charge of police operations at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster, was charged with the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 men, women and children, Ms Hemming said.
"We will allege that David Duckenfield's failures to discharge his personal responsibility were extraordinarily bad and contributed substantially to the deaths of each of those 96 people who so tragically and unnecessarily lost their lives,"she said.
He was not charged over the death of the 96th casualty, who died four years after the disaster, because of legal time limits that were in force at the time.
Norman Bettison, a former police chief constable, was charged with four offences of misconduct in public office relating to telling alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of the disaster and the culpability of fans.
"Given his role as a senior police officer, we will ask the jury to find that this was misconduct of such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder," said Ms Hemming.
The other people were two other ex-police officers, a lawyer who had acted for police, and a safety officer at the Hillsborough stadium.
Charges included perverting the course of justice, contravening safety regulations and misconduct in public office.
The defendants, other than Duckenfield, will appear at Warrington Magistrates' Court on August 9 for a first hearing in their prosecution.