Socialist Worker

Defence concludes summing up in Hillsborough trial

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2647

The defence has concluded its summing up in the trial

The defence has concluded its summing up in the trial


The defence has concluded its summing up in the trial of David Duckenfield and Graham Mackrell.

Some 96 Liverpool fans died after a crush in pens 3 and 4 at the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough football stadium in April 1989. Duckenfield is charged with 95 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

He can’t be charged over the 96th death, that of Tony Bland, as Bland died four years after the disaster.

Former Sheffield Wednesday club safety officer Mackrell faces one charge of a breach of safety regulations. Both deny the charges.

Benjamin Myers QC, representing Duckenfield, said Duckenfield has been treated as a “target of blame”.

He said Duckenfield accepted at the inquests that there were things he could have done better “in hindsight”. He said Duckenfield didn’t agree he had committed any offence.

He said many things contributed to the disaster that were nothing to do with Duckenfield, such as “exceptional” radio problems.

Duckenfield faces five alleged breaches.

The first is that he failed to identify particular potential confining points and hazards to the safe entry of fans arriving from the Leppings Lane area. Myers said the admission arrangements had to be agreed before Duckenfield was appointed match commander.

Sufficiently

The second is his failure to sufficiently monitor and assess the number and situation of fans yet to enter the stadium from Leppings Lane.

Myers said Duckenfield wasn’t there to monitor turnstile counts. He said other officers didn’t inform Duckenfield about the growing crowd.

The third alleged breach is failure to take action in good time to relieve crowding pressures on and from fans seeking entry from Leppings Lane. Myers questioned what the prosecution meant by “in good time”. He said no one suggested delaying kick-off.

The fourth is failure to sufficiently monitor and assess the number and situation of fans in pens 3 and 4. Myers said there was no duty to monitor fans in the pens in the police operational order.

The fifth is failure in good time to prevent crushing to fans in pens 3 and 4 by the flow of fans through the central tunnel.

Myers said experienced officers have said they didn’t know about the practice of closing the tunnel to fans.

He said the first request from superintendent Roger Marshall to open the gates came at around 2.47pm. Myers said Duckenfield considered the request before rejecting it.

The second request followed quickly after, and the third minutes later. Duckenfield gave the order to open the gate at 2.52pm.

Myers said Duckenfield did not freeze and said that making the decision quicker would have been “reckless in the extreme”. He said everyone agreed Duckenfield was right to open the gate.

At the Warrington inquests, Duckenfield agreed that the failure to close the tunnel was his failure and nobody else’s. Myers said this followed days of questioning and isn’t borne out by evidence.

Myers said the crush in pens 3 and 4 didn’t happen at 2.52pm but after “very many more” fans came in a short time later. He said nobody planned for this and that things “spiralled out of control” after Gate C opened.

Changed

He said that after Hillsborough, terrace fencing at grounds was taken down and safety procedures changed. “If this is so much the fault of one person why change the face of British football after this tragedy?” he asked.

Jason Beer QC summed up the defence case for Graham Mackrell. He said it has been described as “common sense” that turnstile arrangements would lead to a build-up of fans outside the stadium.

He said the jury has heard evidence suggesting that lots of fans would arrive more than an hour before kick-off.

Over a two-hour period, 10,100 standing fans for seven turnstiles would mean 721 fans per turnstile per hour, within the Green Guide hourly limit.

Beer said that turnstiles A, B, F and G were open by 12.04pm on the day of the disaster. There were Liverpool fans in pen 4 by 12.05pm. All A-G turnstiles were open by 12.10pm.

Beer said there is evidence that more fans arrived earlier in 1988, which would have influenced planning for 1989.

He said nobody raised alarm over the 1989 turnstile arrangements and that this casts doubt over how reasonable it is to expect Mackrell to foresee problems.

Beer said only one prosecution witness, environmental health officer David Moore, suggested that Mackrell abdicated responsibility.

Beer said if Mackrell had been as flippant about safety as Moore suggested he would have reported it, but there’s no evidence he did. He said a report from Moore following a meeting with Mackrell was positive about Sheffield Wednesday football club.

Beer said several witnesses have given positive evidence about Mackrell.

A Football Association report from the 1988 semi-final at Hillsborough described Mackrell as “lively and alert” and said he worked well with local police.

Beer said the prosecution has failed to establish that Mackrell was responsible for the turnstile arrangements, and said the jury should find him not guilty.

The trial continues.


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