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Former Sheffield Wednesday FC secretary fined £6,500 over Hillsborough health and safety offence

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The former secretary of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club has been fined £6,500 for a health and safety offence related to the Hillsborough disaster.

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Graham Mackrell, 69, who was safety officer for the club at the time of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, was found guilty of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure there were enough turnstiles to prevent large crowds building up outside the ground.

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 15 April 1989, after exit gates to the ground were opened to relieve a build-up of people outside.

During his trial at Preston Crown Court, jurors heard there were seven turnstiles for the 10,100 Liverpool fans with standing tickets.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw sentenced Mackrell today, saying: “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, he added that Mackrell’s offence did not directly cause the disaster inside the ground.

Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell leaves Preston Crown Court after the first day of his trial. (Getty Images)

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.”

Mackrell, wearing a suit with blue shirt and purple tie, sat in the well of the court rather than the dock for the sentencing.

In a statement, Mackrell said: “I am grateful that today the judge 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.

“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.

“Due to the ongoing legal processes involving other defendants, I will not be making any further comment.”

The former club secretary was the first person to be convicted for an offence relating to the disaster, after being found guilty by a majority verdict of ten last month, following an 11-week trial.

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.

Mackrell, of Stocking Pelham in Hertfordshire, 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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