Case against Hillsborough police chief ‘breathtakingly unfair’

The case against Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield is “breathtakingly unfair”, his barrister has told a court.

Benjamin Myers, defending Duckenfield, addressed the jury at Preston Crown Court in his closing speech on Friday.

The retired South Yorkshire police chief superintendent, who sat in the well of the court wearing a navy blue suit, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans who died at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989.

Mr Myers said the case was characterised by two aspects, the first that it “must be one of the most heartbreaking cases ever to come before an English court”.

“It is humbling to be speaking to you like this now,” he said.

“It’s humbling because of the scale of the case and the scale of the loss.”

He added: “We say the second aspect of this case, that goes to the very core of this … is a breathtakingly unfair prosecution case.”

He said Duckenfield, 74, who he described as “ageing and not in the best of health”, was being blamed for the failings of others.

Mr Myers said the capacity of the west terrace of the stadium, where the fatal crush happened, was overestimated and should have been reduced following alterations.

But, he said none of those features were Duckenfield’s doing.

He said: “Whatever he did, or did not, do, he is taking responsibility in this prosecution, you are being invited to give him criminal responsibility for a decade of incompetence on the part of others.”

Mr Myers also described a reduction of police manpower compared to the previous year’s semi-final and problems with the police radios.

He said Duckenfield was an “excellent police officer” but was not experienced as a match commander, with limited experience of Hillsborough and had less than three weeks to prepare for the game after being promoted to the role.

He said if it was Duckenfield’s fault, he would be being held criminally responsible for the faults of others and events which were “cold twists of fate”.

Mr Myers told the court the prosecution relied on evidence Duckenfield gave to inquests in 2015 when he was questioned over a “gruelling” seven days and on evidence from former Arsenal match commander Douglas Hopkins, who Mr Myers described as “not really such an expert after all”.

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