Liverpool

Hillsborough trial: Case against Duckenfield 'deeply unfair'

David Duckenfield Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David Duckenfield was the match commander at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium in 1989

The case against the Hillsborough police match commander is "deeply unfair", a retrial has heard.

David Duckenfield, 75, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans who died in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday's ground in 1989.

Benjamin Myers QC told a jury at Preston Crown Court his client had become "the focus of blame".

"We say that is unfair, there are so many other people at fault, and so many causes," the barrister said.

The prosecution claim the former chief superintendent had "ultimate responsibility" for the police operation to secure the fans' safety at the FA Cup semi-final.

But opening the defence case, Mr Myers said: "It's deeply unfair to say David Duckenfield stands out as exceptionally deserving of blame. That is a stark issue at the centre of this case."

Mr Myers said that some of the factors to blame included bad stadium design, bad planning, crowd behaviour and police behaviour.

He told the jury Mr Duckenfield, of Ferndown, Dorset, was only made match commander 19 days before the game.

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

Mr Myers said a 15% cut in police manpower from the previous year's semi-final was a planning decision made prior to Mr Duckenfield's appointment, so it cannot be blamed on him.

He also said that the police radios becoming "unworkable" as the disaster unfolded also could not be blamed on the defendant.

Families of some of the Hillsborough victims sat in the courtroom while others were watching via a video-link in Liverpool.

Mr Myers said: "Whilst heartfelt sympathy for those who suffered is natural - it's human - it must never be a reason to convict someone for events beyond his control or responsibility."

Last week Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, told the jury Mr Duckenfield had been responsible for "extraordinarily bad" failures which contributed "substantially" to the deaths of the 96 people who died.

The 96th victim, Tony Bland, died more than a year and a day after the disaster at the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest on 15 April, 1989.

Under the law at the time, his death cannot be part of the charge against Mr Duckenfield.

The trial continues.

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