Hillsborough Inquests: David Duckenfield 'did not step up to the plate', officer claims

The Hillsborough disaster Image copyright Inquest handout
Image caption Ninety-six fans died as a result of a crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final

The match commander at the Hillsborough disaster "did not step up to the plate", an inquest jury has heard.

An ex-sergeant, who was in the control box, agreed Ch Supt David Duckenfield made a "gross error" in not considering the effect of opening an exit gate.

The jury heard it was Mr Duckenfield's "duty" to consider the implications of opening the gate and that he had enough to time to do so.

Ninety-six people were fatally injured at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

A barrister said Mr Duckenfield's decision was an error "with fatal consequences".

Michael Goddard has been giving evidence at the new inquests in Warrington.

He was a sergeant who operated the radio inside the police control box on the day of the disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium on 15 April 1989.

Mr Goddard was inside the control room when a superintendent outside the ground asked for a set of gates at the Leppings Lane end to be opened to allow entry to a crowd of fans who had gathered at the turnstiles.

The first request was made at 14:47 BST and the order to open the gates was given at 14:52 BST, after the superintendent had made the request twice more.

Mr Goddard agreed with Brenda Campbell, a barrister representing bereaved families, that it was "the duty of the match commander to consider the consequences of opening those gates".

He also agreed that the five minutes between the first request and the order being given was enough time to think about what would happen.

Who were the 96 victims?

Image copyright other

BBC News: Profiles of all those who died

The jury has heard that during the five minutes the gate was open, around 2,000 spectators went through it into the stadium.

Ms Campbell asked whether Mr Duckenfield had time to give instructions to make contingency plans and to let the police officers on the other side of the gate know what was going to happen.

Mr Goddard said that he did have time.

Ms Campbell also suggested "there was time for him to look out of the windows of the police control box".

She added: 'Mr Goddard, because if he had asked you 'What's going on in the pens?', you would have said 'They look full'?"

'Gross error'

The former officer replied: "I would have probably said 'Well, look you can see'."

Mr Goddard told the court there was no discussion of any contingency plans by those inside the control box.

He agreed that was a "gross error".

Ms Campbell said: "It doesn't need to be pointed out that's it's [an error] with fatal consequences."

Mr Goddard said that, after the first request to open the gates was made, Mr Duckenfield mentioned that he was concerned that opening the exit gate may allow fans without tickets to enter the ground.

Ms Campbell asked: "There was no information at all coming into the control that volumes of people in Leppings Lane were there without tickets, was there?"

Mr Goddard said: "Not coming into the control room, no."

The lawyer said Mr Duckenfield had "no reason" to believe there were many fans trying to get "unauthorised" access to the stadium.

She added: "There was time to put in a contingency plan for when those gates were opened.

"One of those contingency plans that could and should have been put in place was closing that tunnel, do you agree?"

Mr Goddard said: "Yes."

Image copyright Other
Image caption Michael Goddard was in the control box on the day of the tragedy

She continued: "It does not take a genius, it takes a match commander, would you agree with that?"

"Yes," said the witness.

The "reality", Ms Campbell said, was "that Mr Duckenfield did nothing".

Mr Goddard agreed, saying: "That's true."

The jury heard that Mr Goddard had told Operation Resolve, the ongoing police investigation into the disaster, that "some people did not step up to the plate".

Ms Campbell asked him: "What you mean by that is Mr Duckenfield did not step up to the plate?"

Mr Goddard said: "Well, yes."

Ms Campbell continued: "And his second-in-command, [Bernard] Murray, did not step up to the plate?"

Mr Goddard said: "On reflection, yes, that's what I'm thinking".

The inquests continue on Tuesday.

Correction 25 November: The previous version of this article said the first request to open the gates was made at 14:48 BST. This, and subsequent timings, have been amended after the evidence was corrected in court on the morning of 25 November.

Related Topics

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites