Hillsborough Inquests: David Duckenfield promotion defended
A retired police chief has defended the decision to promote Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield just three weeks before the disaster unfolded.
Stuart Anderson said the decision to appoint Mr Duckenfield to the position of chief superintendent was "unanimous" and his CV was "excellent".
The former assistant chief constable also said planning for the game was "already under way" when he took over.
Ninety-six Liverpool fans died after the 1989 FA Cup semi-final crush.
The new inquests into the disaster have previously heard Mr Duckenfield admit that he "probably wasn't the best man for the job on the day".
The jury also heard how, in the minutes after the disaster, Mr Duckenfield lied about fans forcing their way in to the stadium, when the truth was that he had himself ordered an exit gate to be opened.
Mr Anderson was in charge of "staff services" at the time of Mr Duckenfield's appointment, a department which would now be known as HR.
Rajiv Menon QC, who represents a group of the bereaved Hillsborough families, told the court that when Mr Duckenfield was in the witness box, he said he "now believes that due to his inexperience, he was not the best man for the job of match commander and the chief constable was wrong to appoint him".
The barrister then asked Mr Anderson: "Did he ever tell you in the aftermath of the disaster that he was of the view that he lacked the necessary footballing experience and should never have been given such a responsibility?"
Mr Anderson replied: "Never told me."
He told the court that when Mr Duckenfield was promoted in March 1989, the Police College had described him as "outstanding".
Jonathan Hough QC, who represents the coroner, said: "It might be said and it has been said, that it was unwise to give the job of match commander at an FA Cup semi-final to Mr Duckenfield because he had no experience of match command at Hillsborough and no experience of match command at a stadium of similar size."
Mr Anderson said: "It never became a topic of discussion."
"I think it was a reasonable decision at the time."
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Asked if it would have been "feasible" for Mr Duckenfield to ask his experienced predecessor for help at the match, Mr Anderson said it would have been "perfectly reasonable" for Mr Duckenfield to ask for assistance.
"One would have expected, if Mr Duckenfield didn't feel able to do it, that he would have raised that. We were all approachable," he said.
Asked about Mr Duckenfield's lie, Mr Anderson said it had only become "significant" to him "six months ago". None of his senior colleagues told him about it in 1989, he said.
Mr Menon said the lie was not mentioned in any South Yorkshire Police statements or documents about the disaster, nor was it in any solicitor's letters or a report that the force submitted to the Taylor Inquiry in 1989-90.
He asked if that was a "clear and unambiguous example of South Yorkshire Police covering up the truth?"
He added: "Under the guise of evidence-gathering, the truth is being buried. South Yorkshire Police buried David Duckenfield's lie in order to bury the truth.
"It's as simple as that, isn't it?"
Mr Anderson replied: "No."
The inquests, sitting in Warrington, Cheshire are scheduled to resume on Friday.