Socialist Worker

Hillsborough coroner sums up cops' evidence to inquests

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2491

View from the police control box of the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough

View from the police control box of the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough (Pic: Hillsborough inquests)


Officers in the police control box during the Hillsborough disaster “gave no thought” to the consequences of opening a gate to the stadium, a court has heard.

Coroner Sir John Goldring is continuing to sum up evidence given to inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans. The fans died as a result of the 1989 disaster after a crush in pens 3 and 4 at the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

The coroner recapped the evidence of former sergeant Michael Goddard and PCs Michael Ryan and Trevor Bichard. They were in the control box with match commander David Duckenfield.

Duckenfield agreed to open a gate after several requests from Superintendent Roger Marshall, who was at the Leppings Lane turnstiles. Gate C was opened and most fans who came into the stadium went down a tunnel leading to pens 3 and 4.

The coroner said, “No instruction was given about closing the tunnel. No attempt to pass on any such instruction to the stewards was made. No instruction was given to concentrate first on gate C.”

Sir John Goldring reminded the jury that Murray and Goddard had said they didn’t realise that fans would go down the tunnel.

Goddard agreed that fans climbing over fences at 2.59pm were visible from the control box. He agreed that at this point “it was quite clear that this was a major incident”.

Unaware

No major incident was declared. The coroner said that Bichard, Goddard and Ryan had said they were “unaware” of the South Yorkshire Police major incident plan at the time of the disaster.

He reminded the jury that the control box requested dog handlers to be sent to the ground at 3.04pm.

None of the three officers, in their original statements, mentioned a conversation between Duckenfield and FA chief executive Graham Kelly.

Duckenfield had told Kelly that fans had forced open a gate.

The three officers did mention the conversation in statements made in January 1990. This followed a complaint from Trevor Hicks, whose two teenage daughters died in the disaster.

The coroner also reminded the jury about evidence that had been deleted from officers’ statements in the immediate aftermath of the disaster after legal advice. This included criticism of the policing of fans on the day.

He reminded the court of evidence given by former PC Graham Duffy. Duffy said he thought some of the crowd made a “deliberate effort” to cause chaos so some fans could get into the ground without tickets.

After viewing video clips of fans Duffy agreed that “the demeanour of the fans gave no cause to criticise”. He eventually agreed that police had lost control.

The coroner referred to evidence given by former police inspector Philip Woodward. Woodward wrote a second statement after receiving a memo from Chief Superintendent Terry Wain about what officers should include.

Woodward had said that “he was not leaned on to change his account”.

The coroner expects to conclude his summing up on 2 March.


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News
Tue 16 Feb 2016, 16:07 GMT
Issue No. 2491
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