Hillsborough capacity 'overestimated by 25%' on safety certificate

David Duckenfield (left) and Graham Mackrell (right) Image copyright Julia Quenzler/BBC
Image caption Mr Duckenfield (left) and Mr Mackrell (right) are on trial at Preston Crown Court

The capacity of terraces at Hillsborough had been overestimated by about 25% on the official safety certificate, a court has heard.

Structural engineer John Strange agreed the miscalculation was "potentially very dangerous" at Preston Crown Court.

Match commander at the 1989 FA Cup game David Duckenfield, 74, denies 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter.

Ex-Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, 69, denies breaching safety legislation.

Mr Strange was employed by safety consultants Eastwood and Partners, who were contracted by the ground's owners, Sheffield Wednesday, to calculate the stadium's capacity.

The firm, under guidance from his manager Dr Wilfred Eastwood, had worked from drawings supplied by another firm, which the court heard had not been properly to scale.

Mr Strange agreed with Mr Duckenfield's defence counsel Ben Myers QC that establishing capacity was "fundamental", otherwise it meant there would be "seeds sown" for future problems.

Image copyright Operation Resolve
Image caption The jury has previously been shown images of the West Terrace at Hillsborough

He said the safe capacity for the West Terrace, where the fans were fatally injured on 15 April 1989, was "less" than the 7,200 stated on the safety certificate, which was originally issued in 1979.

The court was told a second engineer had estimated the capacity as being 5,425 in 1989.

Addressing Mr Strange, Mr Myers said "those working with [the stadium] were trying to accommodate 1,800 more people than it could properly hold in that section of the ground".

"If the figures are out by that extent, that's potentially very dangerous isn't it?"

Agreeing, Mr Strange replied: "Possibly, yes."

The court was then told the safety certificate was not updated until after another crushing incident during a match between Sheffield Wednesday and their city rivals Sheffield United in November 1989.

The jury was also shown letters showing that Mr Strange had suggested the capacity should be lowered, but was overruled by Dr Eastwood, who was regarded as a "god" in the office.

The trial at Preston Crown Court continues.

The 96 victims

Image caption The 96 people who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster

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