Socialist Worker

Hillsborough police failings 'direct cause of fans’ deaths'

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2446

Hillsborough memorial

Hillsborough memorial (Pic: Nick flikr)

Police failed to stop a dangerous buildup of fans in the run-up to the Hillsborough football disaster, inquests have heard.

Some 96 Liverpool football fans died after a crush at the Sheffield stadium in April 1989. Policing expert Douglas Hopkins gave evidence to fresh inquests into their deaths last week.

Hopkins said South Yorkshire Police focused on the threat of public disorder at matches, not safety.

He said he would have positioned officers to form fans into a queue outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles and said a filtering system was “essential”.

Hopkins also said he would have considered delaying kick off and calling for more officers at 2.33pm.

He said it should have been “very obvious” to a competent match commander at 2.40pm that kick off should have been delayed.

Hopkins was asked about the chief superintendent in charge on the day of the disaster, David Duckenfield. He said being match commander at Hillsborough was “a step too far” for Duckenfield.

He agreed that Duckenfield had “considerable experience of different operational situations” and was “capable of taking difficult decisions quickly”. He also agreed that Duckenfield had “intimate experience of football crowds” before the disaster.


Duckenfield finished giving evidence to the inquests on Wednesday of last week. He agreed that his failings were “the direct cause of the deaths of 96 persons in the Hillsborough tragedy”.

Duckenfield ordered a gate open to relieve a crush outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles. He agreed that had fans not been allowed to flow into pens 3 and 4 the crush would not have occurred.

Duckenfield agreed that fans arriving at 2.20pm were “simply joining the back of a huge mass of people”.

The final entry in a police log from the day was timed at 2.21pm. Duckenfield said that the log “had to go by the board due to the crisis”. 

Pete Weatherby QC said this showed the crisis was “becoming apparent at very shortly after 20 past 2”.

Duckenfield said he “couldn’t dispute” that. He eventually agreed he “froze”.

Duckenfield confirmed he was suspended from duty on 4 August 1989. He retired on 10 November 1991 after a doctor declared him “unfit to undertake the duties of a police constable”.

Former chief superintendents Terry Wain and Donald Denton were set to give evidence to the inquests this week. They were responsible for gathering evidence from officers after the disaster.

Former officer Clive Davis told the inquests earlier this month that Wain told a meeting, “We are going to put the blame for this disaster where it belongs—on the drunken, ticketless Liverpool fans.”


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