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Personal responsibility 'at heart' of Hillsborough commander's trial, jury told

David Duckenfield was the match commander at the disaster in 1989. Credit: PA

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield's personal responsibility "lies at the heart" of his trial for the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool supporters, the jury has been told.

In his closing speech on Thursday, Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, told Preston Crown Court the case was not about sympathy or unfairness.

He said: "We don't ask you to convict Mr Duckenfield on the basis of unfairness.

"We don't single him out. We don't say that his failings are similar to those of others.

"What we identify is what his duty was, what the foreseeable risk was, how he breached that duty, how that breach of duty was the cause of the deaths of the 96 people and why in all the circumstances, if you find them proved on the evidence you have heard, you can be sure that those failings were truly terrible, they were gross failings.

"The people who attended the match, and all of them, were entitled to have placed their trust and their personal safety in the hands of the man who should have been in a position to keep them safe from the dangers associated with turning up in a large number at a stadium to watch a football match."

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw told the eight women and three men on the jury they would have to answer five questions in order to find Duckenfield, 75, guilty.

They were told they would have to answer whether he owed a duty of care to spectators at the FA Cup semi-final, held at the Sheffield Wednesday ground on April 15 1989.

Jurors were also directed to ask themselves whether he breached that duty of care, whether it was foreseeable that breach would cause a serious and obvious risk of death, whether the breach caused or substantially contributed to the deaths and whether it amounted to gross negligence.

The court has heard Duckenfield was appointed to the role less than three weeks before the FA Cup semi-final.

Mr Matthews said: "Inexperience can never be an excuse in these circumstances, the prosecution say, because all inexperience should mean to someone taking proper care is that they should do more to overcome inexperience."

Ninety-six men, women and children died following the crush on the terrace at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were caused.

Duckenfield, of Bournemouth, Dorset, denies gross negligence manslaughter.