BLOG: Hillsborough match commander trial

25 January 2019, 18:29 | Updated: 25 January 2019, 18:36

Preston Court


The trial of former Match Commander on the day of the Hillsborough disaster, David Duckenfield, and the former Club Secretary of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, Graham Mackrell, is underway at Preston Crown Court.
74-year-old Duckenfield, a former Chief Superintendent of South Yorkshire Police, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 men, women and children who died at the match on April 15 1989.
There can be no prosecution for the 96th person, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster and his death is "out of time" under the laws of the time.
Co-accused, 69-year-old Graham Mackrell, who was also the stadium safety officer at Hillsborough, denies breaching a condition of the ground's safety certificate and a health and safety offence.
Here are the details of what has been said in court this week:
MONDAY (21/01): The court began the week by hearing from Ronald Grimshaw, a former South Yorkshire County Fire Service employee. Mr Grimshaw was not at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster. He told the court about the officer working party (OWP) and safety at the stadium and that .f there were a fire at a stadium, the important matter was getting people out speedily.
Defending Duckenfield, Benjamin Myers QC asked whether Mr Grimshaw, with hindsight, believes the OWP failed to guard against some safety issues - including crushing.
Mr Grimshaw said that "nobody expected anything like this to happen". He doesn’t think anyone on the OWP expected it to happen with the facilities provided.
Mr Grimshaw also accepts the OWP would have known in 1986 the two pitch perimeter gates in pens three and four of the Leppings Lane End did not meet the requirements of the 1986 Green Guide.
TUESDAY (22/01): The third person to give evidence to the court in this trial is former engineer John Strange. Mr.Strange worked for a firm called Eastwoods - who had worked on the terraces of the Leppings Lane End of the ground tyhrough the 1980's.
He said that capacities of terraces at the Hillsborough Stadium had been seriously over-estimated....."The stadium, those working with it, were trying to accommodate 1,800 more people than it could properly hold in that section of the ground."
The court also heard that just seven months after the disaster, fans had to be removed from the North West Terrace of the ground after an "overcrowding" incident at the Sheffield derby.
WEDNESDAY (23/01): On Wesnesday, the jury would hear from Former environmental health officer David Moore. Mr Moore, who worked for Sheffield City Council, said Mackrell's attitude was "flippant" when he discussed the need for an appointed safety officer at a "difficult" meeting in August 1987.
He told the jury he had asked Mackrell if he was prepared to carry out the activities of a safety officer, set out in the Green Guide, particularly on match days.
Mr Moore said: "I was quite surprised by his response. He told me very directly he would be too busy entertaining corporate clients."
Simon Antrobus QC, representing Mackrell, suggested Mr Moore might be wrong as Mackrell did not entertain guests on match days.
Mr Moore said: "I know he absolutely said that."
The court also heard evidence from the former chief licensing officer for Sheffield city council, David Bownes. Mr Bownes told the court the council had been intending to update conditions of the ground's safety certificate since 1986, but at the time of the disaster it had still not been updated.
The 1988 certificate was submitted on May 10 1989, almost a month after the disaster.
THURSDAY (24/01): The Jury began to hear evidence from a former South Yorkshire Police Constable - Who was on duty at Hillsborough on the 15th April 1989.
Robert Ainsworth told the court he had to work on his own initiative after being told to respond to a pitch invasion.
Mr Ainsworth said his duties on the day were to look for the traffic - and was on a refreshment break when a superintendent announced officers were being called to the ground.
He said he went towards the Leppings Lane end and saw fans lying on the floor in distress, crying and shouting for help.
Mr Ainsworth told how he helped move injured people.
He said: "It was chaotic. There were officers all over doing great things, fans doing great things, trying to tend to injured people. We just did our best to try and find out what was happening really, but at that stage then we had no idea what was going off."
Mr Ainsworth said he had no instructions at all until he was later told to join a cordon of officers across the pitch.
He said: "At that stage everyone had lost the plot, I think, on the pitch. It was just bedlam."
FRIDAY (25/01): The court began Friday by hearing from another retired police officer, who was on duty at the stadium in Sheffield on the day of the disaster.
Alan Ramsden told the court how a fan pushed and dragged him to the crush on the terraces, saying: "It's terrible, there are people dying, people are dead."
"I will never forget. Never forget," he told the jury at Preston Crown Court. "There was young faces, wire mesh, pleading with us to rescue them and we could not.
"I was shocked. I think traumatised.
"We tried pulling at the wire, couldn't move it, and then there were bobbies actually pulling the spectators that were able to move and I could see these bodies. It was shocking."
The Jury also heard from Liverpool fan Geoffrey Bridson, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, who went to the match with a group of friends, including David Rimmer, who was killed in the crush.
Mr Bridson told the jury the scene outside the ground on Leppings Lane when he arrived was "chaos", with no queuing, just a "seething mass of people".
He said: "I started to get frightened. I had never experienced anything like that before. You could not breathe.
"I remember saying to myself, I still remember it now, 'You're in trouble'. I could not get my breath. If I had fainted, there was only one outcome."

The trial was adjourned until Monday morning.