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David Duckenfield’s ‘extraordinary failings’ caused deaths at Hillsborough, his trial hears

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield arriving at court. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

The "extraordinarily bad" failings of Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield caused the deaths of 96 “wholly innocent” Liverpool fans, his trial has heard.

Former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent Duckenfield failed to quickly declare a major incident or enact emergency measures to free trapped supporters as the disaster unfolded, Preston Crown Court was told on Tuesday.

The 74-year-old, of Bournemouth, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 of the Liverpool supporters, including 10-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley, at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, said there may have been “an extraordinary series of collective and personal failures” by many – if not all – of those planning and managing the match against Nottingham Forest.

But, he said, Duckenfield had the “ultimate responsibility” as match commander to those who died as a result of “the wholly innocent activity of attending a football match as a spectator”.

David Duckenfield is accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 Liverpool supporters. Credit: PA

“Each died as a result of the extraordinarily bad failures by David Duckenfield in the care he took to discharge his personal responsibility on that fateful day,” Mr Matthews said, opening his case.

He said 94 of the 96 succumbed to their injuries on the fateful day, while 14-year-old Lee Nicol died two days later and Tony Bland suffered “terrible brain damage” and was in a permanent vegetative state until March 1993 when died.

Because of the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for Mr Bland’s death as he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were caused.

Mr Matthews said: “Sadly, there were also many collective and individual failures to intervene effectively once the disaster unfolded.

“Not least through the failure of anyone in a position to do so, Mr Duckenfield included, to declare the situation a ‘major incident’ in good time, to put in place emergency measures to release those trapped and to organise and provide emergency medical attention, particularly attempts at resuscitation.”

He continued: “It is the prosecution’s case that David Duckenfield’s failures to discharge this personal responsibility were extraordinarily bad and contributed substantially to the deaths of each of those 96 people who so tragically and unnecessarily lost their lives.”

The retired officer, who wore a dark suit with a shirt and tie, went on trial alongside former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell.

Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell arrives at court. Credit: Byrne/PA

Mackrell, 69, denies contravening the stadium’s safety certificate and a health and safety offence.

The fans died as a result of the crush in pens at the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield Wednesday ground on April 15 1989.

Retired officer Duckenfield, who wore a dark suit with a shirt and tie, was on trial alongside former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell.

Mackrell “effectively shrugged off all responsibility” for important aspects of his role as safety officer, Mr Matthews said.

At the very least Mackrell turned a “blind eye” to the conditions of the club’s safety certificate by failing to agree with police the methods of entry into the stadium, the prosecutor added.

Mackrell, 69, denies contravening the stadium’s safety certificate and failing to take reasonable care of the health and safety of others.

The trial continues.