Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield had 'ultimate responsibility' for disaster
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 14/03/19 3:44pm
Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield had "ultimate responsibility" on the day of the disaster and should have had the knowledge to make "key lifesaving decisions", his trial has been told.
In his closing speech, Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, told jurors they were not being asked to convict him on the basis of unfairness.
Addressing the jury at Preston Crown Court on Thursday, he said: "We don't unfairly single him out.
"We don't say his failings are similar to those of others that are not in charge. What we say is this, he was the person with ultimate responsibility on the day.
"Other police officers may also have made errors, have failed, but he was the one with the overview, quite literally the overview, the person in charge who had both the authority and should have had the knowledge to make what were key lifesaving decisions that were necessary in moments of peril and danger."
Mr Matthews said the jury should consider what a reasonably competent match commander in the position of Duckenfield should have done and should have known by the time of the FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989.
He said: "Quite frankly it may be capable of being reduced to this, the failures, the breaches that are alleged against him are failures that he admitted when he gave evidence on oath at the Warrington inquests in 2015."
Mr Matthews said bad stadium design at the Sheffield Wednesday ground meant the "stage was set" for the disaster but the features would have been "readily identifiable" when Duckenfield was promoted to the role of match commander, less than three weeks before the match.
He said: "Part of Mr Duckenfield's duty as match commander was to have thought and planned about the hazards and the dangers and the problem areas that we could encounter."
Mr Matthews said anyone, with a reasonable degree of care, would have recognised the risk of overcrowding in the central pens when there was an uncontrolled entry of people into the stadium concourse, ahead of the tunnel which led to the terrace, after the exit gate was opened.
He said: "We suggest to you it is not unfair to prosecute David Duckenfield and it is certainly not unfair to ask you to look at the evidence and, where you are sure, to hold him accountable for his actions and failures.
"What is unfair is that thousands of fans attended a football match that day and 96 didn't come home.
"Everyone was entitled to have placed their trust and their personal safety in the hands of a man who should have been in a position to keep them safe from the dangers associated with attending a venue where large numbers of people were going to be there."
Duckenfield, of Bournemouth, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 supporters who died following the crush in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.
Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, 69, denies failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety Act.