Hillsborough Judge Warns Jury To 'Put Emotions Aside' As David Duckenfield Trial Nears Conclusion

Sir Peter Openshaw also told of the risk of "memory adjustment".
<strong>David Duckenfield denies manslaughter by gross negligence.</strong>
David Duckenfield denies manslaughter by gross negligence.
PA Wire/PA Images

A judge has warned jurors to put emotions aside when considering their verdict following the trial of Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield.

Hearing a case in court 30 years after an event is bound to place defendants at a serious disadvantage due to the passage of time and fading memories, judge Sir Peter Openshaw said in his summing up at Preston Crown Court on Thursday.

He warned the jury that after such a length of time, people can be influenced by things they have seen or heard, even unconsciously, which can lead to ‚Äúmemory adjustment.‚ÄĚ

He also urged them to view any publicity about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster that they had heard, read or seen in the past or during the trial as irrelevant to their task.

Duckenfield, 74, is accused of manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 Liverpool fans who were caught in the fatal crush in the Leppings Lane terrace of the Sheffield stadium three decades ago.

Graham Mackrell, the Sheffield Wednesday club secretary and safety officer at the time of the disaster, is accused of a safety offence. Both men deny the charges against them.

Judge Openshaw began by telling the jury the death of 96 football supporters was a ‚Äúprofound human tragedy‚ÄĚ, with the sadness and anger being as raw as it was 30 years ago.

<strong>Judge Sir Peter Openshaw</strong>
Judge Sir Peter Openshaw
HuffPost UK

‚ÄúThere have been times during the trial of heightened emotion and distress,‚ÄĚ he said.

But the judge added that the jury‚Äôs duty was to ‚Äústrive to deliver true verdicts‚ÄĚ, directing them to ‚Äútry to put aside emotions and sympathy and decide the case after an objective and dispassionate review of the evidence‚ÄĚ.

He also told the court that the burden of proof lay with the prosecution in the case against the two men and told jurors they should consider the evidence against each of the individuals separately when reaching their verdicts.

Duckenfield and Mackrell sat in the well of the court during the judge’s summing up, alongside their legal teams.

Some of the families of those who died in the disaster sat in the public gallery listening to proceedings.

In total, 96 men, women and children died in the crush at the start of the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in April 1989.

Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.

The summing up of the case continues before the jury on Friday.