Four former senior British policemen were among six people charged over the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in England that killed 96 Liverpool football supporters.

Families of the victims gathered this morning in Warrington to be informed of the decisions by Sue Hemming, Crown Prosecution Service head of special crime and counter-terrorism division.

The victims died in an overcrowded, fenced-in enclosure at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, 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 Hemming in a statement.

David Duckenfield, a former senior police officer 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.

David Duckenfield

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.

The other five people charged included other 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.

"It's about all of these families, 28 years we've had of torture really. It's been hell on earth," said Margaret Aspinall, a leader of the families' campaign group, whose 18-year-old son James was among the dead.

"This is definitely the start of the end," she told reporters after the charging decision was announced.

"We all need peace from Hillsborough, but we can never have peace until we've got truth, justice, accountability."

Last year, new inquests found the 96 were unlawfully killed in the disaster.

The jury also identified errors in the police planning and response, the actions of commanding officers, the safety certification of the ground, the management of the stadium by Sheffield Wednesday FC and the response by the ambulance service.

It also found there were dangerous features in the stadium design and structural engineers Eastwood and Partners could have done more.


Details of charges set out by Crown Prosecution Service

The following charges have been set out by the CPS:

- Former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent David Duckenfield, who was the match commander on the day of the disaster, is charged with the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 men, women and children.

- Former South Yorkshire Police chief constable Norman Bettison is charged with four offences of misconduct in public office.

- Former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent Donald Denton is charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice relating to material changes made to witness statements.

- Former South Yorkshire Police detective chief inspector Alan Foster is also charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice relating to material changes made to witness statements.

Graham Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday's company secretary and safety officer at the time, is charged with two offences of contravening a term of condition of a safety certificate. He is also charged with a further health and safety-related offence.

- Peter Metcalf, who was the solicitor acting for South Yorkshire Police during the Taylor Inquiry and the first inquests, is charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice relating to material changes made to witness statements.