FIVE men charged following an investigation into the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath have appeared in court for the first time.

Former West Yorkshire and Merseyside chief constable Sir Norman Bettison appeared in the dock at Warrington Magistrates' Court this afternoon, Wednesday, along with fellow retired police officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster, former Sheffield Wednesday secretary Graham Mackrell and solicitor Peter Metcalf, who acted for South Yorkshire Police following the disaster.

Legal representatives for Bettison, Foster, Denton and Metcalf told the court the men will be pleading not guilty when their cases reach the crown court.

Mackrell was asked to enter pleas and pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces.

The men, who were all wearing suits, were bailed.

They will next appear at Preston Crown Court on September 6.

Match commander David Duckenfield faces 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter but will not be formally charged until an application to lift a stay imposed after a prosecution in 2000 has been approved by a High Court judge.

Bettison, who was a chief inspector in South Yorkshire Police at the time of the tragedy, is charged with four offences of misconduct in a public office over alleged lies in accounts of his involvement in the disaster.

Mackrell, who was the safety officer for the football club, is charged with two offences involving the stadium safety certificate and a health and safety offence.

Denton, Foster and Metcalf are each charged with two offences of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice relating to amendments made to police officers' statements following the tragedy.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans were crushed to death in pens at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough Stadium on April 15 1989, as their FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest began.

Twelve of those who died were from Wirral and Ellesmere Port.

They were Peter Burkett, Raymond Chapman, Anthony Kelly, James Delaney, Christopher Edwards, Arthur Horrocks, Kevin Traynor, Chris Traynor, James Hennessy, Graham Roberts, Dave Thomas and Thomas "Steve" Fox.

Last month the Crown Prosecution Service said there would be no manslaughter prosecution over the death of the 96th casualty, Anthony Bland, as he died almost four years later, and under the law in 1989 his death is now 'out of time' to be prosecuted.