THE cost of pursuing criminal prosecutions has been questioned by Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope in light of the acquittal of David Duckenfield in relation to the Hillsborough tragedy.

Mr Duckenfield, who lives in Ferndown, was found not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter in November last year more than 30 years after he commanded police at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, at which 96 people died.

The former South Yorkshire police chief superintendent faced trial on three separate occasions.

A jury was unable to reach a verdict following a private prosecution in 2000, while a criminal prosecution for 95 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence in April 2019 saw a jury unable to reach a verdict.

Mr Duckenfield faced a retrial in October and November last year, where he was found not guilty.

At the trial in April 2019, a second defendant, Graham Mackrell, was convicted of a health and safety offence.

Sir Christopher asked Attorney General Geoffrey Cox what was the estimated cost to the public purse for each of the prosecutions against Mr Duckenfield in relation to Hillsborough. In response, Solicitor General Michael Ellis QC said the case was “complex and harrowing”.

“Every effort was made to build a robust case for prosecution, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the case was handled by a team of experienced specialist prosecutors,” said Mr Ellis. “The CPS estimates the cost of legal counsel fees and other prosecution costs for the prosecution of both David Duckenfield and Graham Mackrell to be approximately £1.97 million. CPS records do not capture the cost of the time spent by internal CPS staff on this case.”

Mr Ellis said the CPS could not comment on costs incurred by the police, HM Courts and Tribunals, or any other partners in the case.

It also cannot comment on the private prosecution, which was brought by the Hillsborough Family Support Group in 2000.

Sir Christopher told the Daily Echo he asked the question as he believes there should be “public accountability” for the costs involved with prosecutions. “The figures are quite large and that is just for the prosecuting authorities,” said Sir Christopher.

“It is for people to judge whether there could have been a better approach and why was this case treated differently. At a time when people are saying the justice system is under a lot of strain, the expenditure on one particular trial becomes more relevant.”

Asked for his view on the CPS’s decision to proceed with a third trial, he said: “I think with the benefit of hindsight it was a mistake to go for a third trial.

“It didn’t achieve what the prosecuting authorities thought that it would. The whole issue of criminal manslaughter is quite difficult.”