Duckenfield ‘was under pressure’


Published: Wednesday 18th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Hillsborough police chief David Duckenfield has told the jury into the inquests of 96 Liverpool fans that he was “a new and inexperienced match commander” faced with “unimaginably difficult and fast-moving circumstances”.

He added he was working to “a flawed operational (match) order” and had “not envisaged or wished for death or injury to a single football supporter” in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace at the fateful FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989 – Britain’s worst sporting disaster.

Yesterday, Mr Duckenfield, 70, agreed that his failure to close the tunnel leading to those pens was the “direct cause” of the tragedy after he had just ordered the opening of an exit gate at the ground to relieve congestion at the Leppings Lane turnstiles.

The circumstances of that failure was outlined by his barrister today as the retired chief superintendent from South Yorkshire Police gave evidence for a seventh day at the hearing in Warrington.

Summing up his questioning of his client, John Beggs QC, said to Mr Duckenfield: “In front of this jury, Mr Duckenfield, many family members in court, and many many lawyers and journalists, you have admitted, haven’t you, some very serious professional failures?”

“Yes, sir,” he replied.

Mr Beggs said: “Do you agree that those serious failures were in circumstances where first you were new and inexperienced?”

The witness said: “Yes, sir.”

His barrister continued: “Were you working to what we now know was a flawed operational order?”

Mr Duckenfield said: “Yes, sir.”

Mr Beggs asked: “Were you at least from 2.30pm onwards, if not earlier, under intense pressure?”

Mr Duckenfield repeated: “Yes, sir.”

Mr Beggs said: “Were you working in unimaginably difficult and fast-moving circumstances?”

Mr Duckenfield said again: “Yes, sir.”

Mr Beggs concluded: “When you went to Hillsborough on the morning of April 15 1989 was the very last outcome that you envisaged or wished for was death or injury to a single football supporter in those central pens?”

Mr Duckenfield said: “I did not want that at all, sir.”

Mr Duckenfield was promoted 19 days before the disaster and inherited the role of match commander at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground for the sell-out tie against Nottingham Forest – his first game in overall charge.

He told his barrister that on and leading up April 15 he did not ignore any advice given by experienced officers but he accepted as match commander that “the buck stops with me”.

Mr Beggs said it had been suggested by a number of barristers at the inquests that Mr Duckenfield alone should bear responsibility for the tragedy.

Mr Duckenfield agreed he had nothing to do with previous turnstile “failures” at Sheffield Wednesday and no one had advised him about them.

He had no say on Liverpool being awarded the smaller end of the ground for the match with just 23 turnstiles.

In reality, he had “inherited” the police operation for the match.

He also had nothing to do with signage at the ground or previous decisions to install perimeter fences and radial fences, its architectural features or any breaches of stadium safety guidance on crush barrier heights.

Mr Beggs asked: “If supporters turned up later in 1989 than in 1988, for whatever reason, was that something with which you had any control?”

“No sir, ” said Mr Duckenfield.

Published: Wednesday 18th March 2015 by The News Editor

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