Liverpool

Hillsborough trial: David Duckenfield 'was thrown in at deep end'

David Duckenfield Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David Duckenfield was the match commander at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989

The police match commander at Hillsborough faced a steep learning curve when he was put in charge of an FA Cup semi-final, a court has heard.

David Duckenfield, 75, took control of the game at Sheffield Wednesday's ground 19 days after being appointed.

He denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans on 15 April 1989.

The jury at Preston Crown Court has been told his "extraordinarily bad" failings led to the deaths.

However, former South Yorkshire police sergeant Michael Goddard claimed newly appointed match commanders were given no training at the time.

"You just picked stuff up as you went along," he told the court.

He was then asked by Mr Duckenfield's defence barrister, Benjamin Myers QC, what kind of learning curve the officer would have faced.

Mr Goddard replied that it was "Mount Everest - it couldn't be done."

He said Mr Duckenfield had inherited an operational order that had already been drawn up and was "tried and tested".

Mr Goddard also said he stood by a previous statement that "to say David Duckenfield was thrown in at the deep end would be an understatement".

The court heard he was a radio operator at the game and stationed in the police control box alongside Mr Duckenfield.

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

Mr Goddard told the court the build-up of fans outside the turnstiles half an hour before kick off was "very unusual" and former superintendent Roger Marshall made two or three requests for the gates to be opened.

He claimed that, after another demand, Mr Duckenfield said: "Open the gates."

Mr Goddard told the jury that shortly after, a mass of people who came in through exit gate C.

The prosecution claim the former chief superintendent had "ultimate responsibility" for the police operation for the game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

However his defence team claim the case against him is "deeply unfair" and he has become the "the focus of blame".

The 96th victim, Tony Bland, died more than a year and a day after the disaster.

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

The trial continues.

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