Socialist Worker

'Primary blame' for Hillsborough disaster lies with cops, says former police sergeant

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2421

Memorial to the 96 Liverpool fans

Memorial to the 96 Liverpool fans (Pic: Nick flikr)


Former South Yorkshire Police sergeant Stephen Payne has said that the “primary blame” for the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster lies with the police.

He was giving evidence on Monday of this week at fresh inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans who died. 

He told the jury, “I think I basically broadly agreed with the results of the Taylor Inquiry, which was that the primary blame had to lie with the police.

“At the end of the day, the police were the people in charge of the crowd control plan on that day, and, for whatever reasons, that plan failed.”

Payne had been on duty and described how officers had been briefed in the run-up to the match.

He said, “There was a strong emphasis on intelligence about the possibility of a large number of Liverpool fans – 3,000 or 4,000 – coming late, potentially in drink and without tickets, trying to get their way in.”

He said that he thought chief superintendent Duckenfield has given the briefing.

But Payne said his experience was that “There was no major drinking. 

He said it “was rather strange” that officers were asked to write statements on plain paper following the match.

He added, “We were encouraged to ensure that we put evidence in of drunkenness or poor behaviour of fans”.

Evidence

Graham Duffy, another former police officer, also gave evidence.

When asked if fans were “the worse for drink” he replied, “Some had certainly been drinking, because you could smell it. 

“But I would expect people coming to a football match – a lot of them, anyway – to have had a drink. It’s not something that surprised me at all.”

Duffy said he saw no bad behaviour among fans that could have been attributed ted to drink.

But he stuck by an earlier statement that “a deliberate effort on the part of a section of the crowd had been made to cause chaos at the turnstiles so that persons could gain entry without tickets”.

When shown several sections of footage of fans gathered outside the turnstiles, he agreed that it did not show any evidence of “loutish behaviour”.

Earlier in the day Liverpool fan Michael Hill also gave evidence to the inquests. He said that he saw “no bad behaviour” or indications that fans had had too much to drink.

He added that a police officer advised him to go down the tunnel to pens three and four when he went through the Leppings Lane turnstiles.

Hill had written a letter to former Liverpool Football Club manager Kenny Dalglish in the wake of the disaster.

It complained of “misinformation” in the media reporting of the crush that put the blame on Liverpool fans.

Lawyer Rajiv Menon questioned Hill during his evidence. But Lord Justice Goldring, the coroner, stopped him from showing a copy of a controversial Sun front page in court.

He told Menon to “move on with some other questions”.

But Menon complained that “there has got to be some balance”, saying that the court had heard “hours and hours and hours of evidence and questioning about drunkenness and ticketlessness”.

The inquests continue.


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