A FORMER Sheffield Wednesday club secretary has today been fined £6,500 for health and safety failings on the day of the Hillsborough disaster.
Graham Mackrell, 69, was found guilty under the Health and Safety at Work Act of failing to ensure there were enough turnstiles to prevent large crowds building up outside the ground.
The ex-club secretary, who is the first person to be convicted for an offence relating to the disaster, was sentenced at Preston Crown Court today.
Ninety-six Liverpool fans died following the crush in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989, after exit gates to the ground were opened to relieve a build-up of crowds outside.
The court heard there were seven turnstiles for the 10,100 Liverpool fans with standing tickets.
Mackrell was found guilty by a majority of 10 to two on April 3 following an 11-week trial.
During the trial, stadium safety expert John Cutlack told the court there were not sufficient turnstiles for fans on the day.
But Jason Beer QC, defending Mackrell, argued the build-up outside was caused by other factors, including a lack of police cordons and the unusual arrival pattern of fans.
Eight character references for Mackrell were read to the jury, including statements from former England caretaker boss Howard Wilkinson and Roy Hattersley, now Baron Hattersley, the Sheffield-born former Labour MP and now life peer.
In his statement, Mr Wilkinson, chairman of the League Managers Association and the last English manager to win the league title, said he had worked with Mackrell when he was manager of Sheffield Wednesday between 1983 and 1988, and described him as “competent, proficient and trustworthy”.
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Mackrell had originally faced three charges relating to the disaster, but two counts of contravening terms or conditions of the ground’s safety certificate were dropped during proceedings.
He stood trial alongside match commander David Duckenfield but, after deliberating for 29 hours and six minutes, the jury failed to reach a verdict on whether the former chief superintendent was guilty of the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 of the victims.
A hearing to decide whether Duckenfield will face a retrial is expected to be held next month.
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