Hillsborough trial day four: Match commander did not have ‘special powers’, jury told

17 Jan

The police match commander on the day of the Hillsborough disaster did not have “special powers” to anticipate it and should not be held accountable for the failures of others, a jury’s been told.

David Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool supporters.

Mr Duckenfield was appointed match commander less than three weeks before the FA Cup tie

His defence barrister, Benjamin Myers QC, told Preston Crown Court Mr Duckenfield has been “relentlessly criticised” for things he was not responsible for during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

The former Chief Superintendent was appointed to the role of match commander less than three weeks before the fixture took place on 15 April.

Disaster unfolded “by virtue of bad stadium design, bad planning, some aspects of crowd behaviour, some aspects of police behaviour and genuine human error”, the jury was told.

That does not take away from how “bitterly sad” the incident was, Mr Myers added.

Earlier the court heard a man who lost two daughters at Hillsborough was told to “shut up” when he tried to alert a police officer to the unfolding tragedy.

Trevor Hicks’ seat was near the police control box but Sarah and Victoria Hicks were in pen 3 – a standing section of the Leppings Lane end.

As people began climbing over the fence to escape the crush Mr Hicks believed the police “totally misread” the situation and thought a pitch invasion was taking place, the court was told.

After making his way onto the pitch he found both his daughters laid out, almost side by side. They were later pronounced dead.

Trevor Hicks lost two daughters, Sarah and Victoria, at the disaster

The prosecution argued the density of the crowd before kick off was obviously “into the realm of disaster”.

That made the failure of match commander David Duckenfield who had a “birds-eye view” from the police control box more “extraordinary”, they claimed.

Health and Safety Executive analysis estimated the density at the front of pen 3 of the Leppings Lane terrace could have been as high as 10 people per square metre at 3:03pm.

This was into the realm of “involuntary packing” and prevented people controlling their own movement.

An off-duty police officer who went to the game was carried towards the stadium without his feet touching the ground, the court heard

The jury was shown photos of the crowd pressed up against the pitch perimeter fence, having been warned the images would be distressing.

An off-duty police officer who went to the game was carried towards the stadium without his feet touching the ground, it was said.

Once in the pen, which was already packed, he was pushed to the front “as if on roller skates” and was unable to move when he got there, the prosecution told the jury.

It was something he had “never experienced before”.

The trial continues.