Liverpool

Hillsborough inquests: David Duckenfield never disciplined over 'wicked lie'

Peter Hayes arriving at the inquests
Image caption Peter Hayes was in charge of discipline and complaints within South Yorkshire Police

No disciplinary action was ever taken against the Hillsborough police match commander for his "wicked lie" about the disaster, the inquests have heard.

David Duckenfield claimed Liverpool fans "forced" their way into the ground when, in reality, he had ordered a gate be opened to let them in.

Former South Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Peter Hayes agreed the lie warranted a "disreputable conduct" investigation.

Ninety-six fans died in the 1989 crush.

The lie had been a "disgraceful" thing for former chief superintendent Mr Duckenfield to say, said Mr Hayes, who was in charge of discipline and complaints within the South Yorkshire force.

He agreed "it was a terrible untruth because it blamed the very people who died for their own deaths".

In the moments after the disaster at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989, Mr Duckenfield told the Football Association's then chief executive that some Liverpool fans had forced open a gate.

But he omitted to tell Graham Kelly that it had been his own decision.

The jury has previously heard that opening Gate C allowed up to 2,000 fans to enter the Sheffield ground in five minutes.

Many ended up going through a tunnel that led to the already-full central terrace pens at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium.

Mr Duckenfield admitted to the inquests that his mistake "was the direct cause of the deaths of 96 people".

'Example of deceit'

Peter Wilcock QC, who represents a group of families, said it was a "wicked and terrible lie".

He asked: "Have you ever come across a similar example of deceit by a senior officer in your long career within the police?"

Mr Hayes replied: "No."

Mr Wilcock told the court that South Yorkshire Police "never started any proceedings against Mr Duckenfield for that wicked lie".

He asked Mr Hayes whether the lie, which Mr Duckenfield said he told the then Chief Constable Peter Wright about, could have prompted disciplinary proceedings for "disreputable conduct".

Mr Hayes said: "Yes, I would agree with that."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Former Ch Supt David Duckenfield was in charge of policing at Hillsborough on the day of the 1989 disaster

Two families who lost relatives in the disaster complained to the authorities about Mr Duckenfield's lie.

The jury heard West Midlands Police, which investigated those complaints, initially told the families their complaint was "rejected as being unsubstantiated".

Mr Wilcock said: "Can you imagine how they felt and how they feel now when there's evidence that you and your colleagues knew from day one that that lie was very far from unsubstantiated but true?"

The coroner, Sir John Goldring, told Mr Hayes he did not have to answer that question.

Mr Hayes had previously said that he could not remember when he first heard about Mr Duckenfield's lie.

In the days after the disaster, Mr Hayes asked Ch Supt Terry Wain to prepare South Yorkshire Police's official statement to the Taylor public inquiry, which was due to begin on 15 May 1989.

The jury heard despite being told how the police had previously closed off the tunnel when the pens became full, Mr Wain did not mention that in his report.

Mr Wilcock asked Mr Hayes: "Would it surprise you, given all the instructions Mr Wain received to be open and transparent, that that particular piece of information about the closure of the tunnel never made its way in to the report he prepared and was later presented in edited form to Lord Justice Taylor?"

Mr Hayes replied: "Yes, I am rather surprised at that."

The jury saw a letter which was sent to South Yorkshire Police by the public inquiry.

Mr Wilcock said it detailed how the inquiry would look into why "when it was decided that a gate or gates must be opened to relieve pressure... there were no steps taken to ensure that there was no police or steward presence to prevent those entering going to the tunnel".

Mr Hayes agreed that Mr Wain was not "incompetent" and "he knew exactly what he was doing".

Mr Wilcock then asked: "It's staggering, isn't it, that given that warning, his report made no mention of the past practice of closing the gates?"

Mr Hayes he was "not aware whether or not Mr Wain ever saw the letter".

Peter Weatherby QC, who represents another group of families, said: "Would you agree with me as the man managing the submission to the Taylor Inquiry that it was a serious failure that the submission did not include the failure to close the tunnel?"

Mr Hayes replied: "Yes, I find it inconceivable, sitting here now, that that was no part of the submission."

He both denied being part of a police cover-up into the disaster and asking junior colleagues to take part in one.

The inquests, being held in Warrington, Cheshire, are due to resume on Wednesday.


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