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Who do you support, would-be jurors in Hillsborough trial asked to declare

Despite many millions of entries on the disaster on social media, judge warns jury: Don’t Google it

The 12 good men and women set to hear one of most the important retrials of the 21st century have already been subjected to intense scrutiny – before the case is officially underway.

Potential jurors in the trial of Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield found themselves being asked their footballing allegiances as an opening tester as to their suitability to sit through seven weeks of evidence.

The 75-year-old former South Yorkshire chief superintendent appeared in court as his retrial began in Preston Crown Court this week.

When the hearing started shortly after 11am on Monday, 100 potential jurors were brought into the courtroom, sitting in the jury box, public gallery and dock.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw said: "In this case the defendant, David Duckenfield, is charged with manslaughter arising out of the Hillsborough stadium disaster at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, played at Sheffield, on April 15 1989.

"I must find jurors who can properly and fairly try such a case."

The jury panel was given questionnaires made up of 19 questions to assess whether they were suitable to serve.

They were asked whether they, or any close relatives or friends, were supporters of Liverpool FC, Everton, Sheffield Wednesday or Nottingham Forest.

The questionnaire asked if they, or close relatives or friends, were at the stadium on the day of the disaster or had been involved in any Hillsborough campaign groups.

Additionally, the would-be jurors were asked whether they or family members had ever been employed by the police or by criminal agencies including the Crown Prosecution Service and the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

It also asked whether they had health problems or had any pre-booked holidays while the trial was due to sit.

A panel of 32 was selected from the 100 and the potential jurors told they would be sworn in the next day. Court was then adjourned.

On Tuesday that initial panel was whittled down to 14 people – 12 to make up the jury and two additional jurors who will sit through the opening.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw told the five men and nine women of the jury: "As all of you will probably know, there has been a huge amount of publicity about the Hillsborough stadium disaster.

"You will hear that there have been previous trials against this defendant in which the jury has disagreed," he said.

"That other juries have failed to agree on a verdict is also quite irrelevant to your decision."

He warned the jury not to research the case on the internet or post about it on social media, adding: "I'm sure if you Google the Hillsborough disaster there will be many millions of entries.

"Don't do it."

Mr Duckenfield, who denies manslaughter by gross negligence, sat in the well of the court wearing a suit and blue tie.

His wife, Ann, was in the public gallery of the courtroom, as were about eight relatives of victims.

Others were able to watch the proceedings over a video-link from the Cunard Building in Liverpool.

Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, is due to open the case on Thursday morning.

Ninety-six men, women and children died as a result of the crush in pens at the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield Wednesday ground at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.

Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were caused.

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