Sunday 21 July 2019

Hillsborough chief's failures on day 'were extraordinarily bad'

Accused: Former police chief David Duckenfield arrives at Preston Crown Court in England.
Photo: Jon Super/MGO
Accused: Former police chief David Duckenfield arrives at Preston Crown Court in England. Photo: Jon Super/MGO

Tom Morgan

David Duckenfield, a former South Yorkshire police chief, was responsible for "extraordinarily bad" failures which led to the loss of life of 96 wholly innocent fans during the Hillsborough disaster almost 30 years ago, a court has heard.

A jury of six men and six women were told how he was criminally responsible for 95 of those victims because of his "gross failure" as match-day commander for Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest in 1989.

Nobody monitored numbers or safety in the build-up to the tragedy, which led to fans getting crushed after Mr Duckenfield failed in his duty to safeguard spectators, Preston Crown Court heard.

Opening the crown's case, lead barrister Richard Matthews QC told the jury there should have been "nothing extraordinary" about that FA Cup semi-final.

Instead, he said, "there was an extraordinary series of collective and personal failures on the part of very many, if not all, of those who were responsible for the planning, organisation and management of the arrival, entry and accommodation of the 50,000 fans at the Hillsborough Stadium".

He added: "Sadly, there were also many collective and individual failures to intervene effectively once the disaster unfolded, not least through the failure of anyone in a position to do so, Mr Duckenfield included, to declare the situation a 'major incident' in good time, to put in place emergency measures to release those trapped and to organise and provide emergency medical attention, particularly attempts at resuscitation."

The case, due to last until May, opened after the judge, Peter Openshaw, made a lengthy and strict order for jurors to ignore what they may have heard or read about the high-profile case. "What any of you have heard in the past is entirely irrelevant to your task," the judge said.

The crown then described how Mr Duckenfield was the most senior police officer at the match and he "grossly failed to discharge his personal responsibility for the safety of deceased".

Mr Matthews added: "With that role, came not just ultimate responsibility for the police operation on April 15 to secure the safe arrival, entry and accommodation of those 50,000 fans at the Hillsborough Stadium, but personal responsibility to take reasonable care for the arrangements that were put in place, to take reasonable care in the command of those beneath him and to take reasonable care in the orders he gave and decisions he took.

"It is the prosecution's case that David Duckenfield's failures to discharge this personal responsibility were extraordinarily bad and contributed substantially to the deaths of each of those 96 people who so tragically and unnecessarily lost their lives.

"It is the prosecution's case that each of those who died did so as a result of participation in the wholly innocent activity of attending a football match as a spectator on April 15, 1989; each died as a consequence of the obvious and serious risk to life posed by crushing from poor management of the expected capacity crowd seeking admission to watch the match; and each died as a result of the extraordinarily bad failures by David Duckenfield in the care he took to discharge his personal responsibility on that fateful day."

Mr Duckenfield appeared in court alongside former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell (69), who is charged with contravening a term or condition of the stadium's safety certificate and failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety Act.

Irish Independent

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