Socialist Worker

Police chief at Hillsborough made 'serious mistake', court is told

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2493

A tribute to victims of the Hillsborough football disaster

A tribute to victims of the Hillsborough football disaster (Pic: Nick/flickr)


Police chief David Duckenfield accepted it was a “serious mistake” to accept the role of match commander in the run-up to the Hillsborough disaster, a court has heard.

Coroner Sir John Goldring has begun summing up evidence given by senior officers to fresh inquests into the deaths of fans killed in the disaster.

Some 96 Liverpool football fans died after a crush at the Sheffield stadium in April 1989.

Duckenfield had been promoted weeks before the match at Hillsborough. Sir Goldring said, “If he refused to command the semi-final, he said, the chief constable would have chosen someone else for promotion.”

He added, “There is no evidence to suggest that Mr Duckenfield being a Freemason, as he was, played any part in his promotion.”

Duckenfield accepted that he should have thought more about his limited knowledge of the role of match commander. He “accepted that there should have been a contingency plan” to deal with large crowds outside the ground.

The coroner said, “He agreed that monitoring pens was his ultimate responsibility. He failed to do so.”

The coroner also reminded the jury of evidence given by former superintendent Roger Greenwood. Greenwood was in front of the central pens at 3.03pm when the crush was taking place.

Retrievable

He was “about an arm’s length” from fans being crushed against the fencing. The coroner said, “His judgement at the time was that the situation was completely retrievable.”

The coroner had previously reminded the jury of officers who said their statements were altered following the disaster. In the case of officer Groome, “The passages most critical of South Yorkshire Police had been removed.”

Former sergeant John Morgan said his statement had been “sanitised” and he didn’t think he had agreed to the changes.

The jury was reminded that superintendent Roger Marshall, who was at the Leppings Lane entrance, accepted he “made mistakes”.

And the police operations room did not use the emergency codeword “catastrophe” as the disaster unfolded. This “may well have lost some time in terms of the response of the fire service”.

The coroner reminded the jury of evidence given by police constable Trevor Bichard, who was in the police control box. A log prepared by Bichard after the disaster included an entry at 2.55pm that said, “From officers rear of LL terrace, shut the gates at the back of the tunnel.”

The coroner said, “This appears in the first of the logs that Mr Bichard prepared. It does not appear in the second log.”

The coroner’s summing up was set to resume on Wednesday of this week, after Tuesday’s hearing was cancelled due to juror illness.


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