NEWS
05/02/2019 15:19 GMT

'Seeds Of Hillsborough Disaster Were Sown 10 Years Before', Court Hears

Expert believes safe capacity of the stadium was about 30% lower than the number of tickets sold.

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David Duckenfield, 74, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans

Stadium features including turnstiles, signage, fences and an overstated capacity were all potential factors in the cause of the Hillsborough disaster, the trial of match commander David Duckenfield has heard.

Giving evidence to Preston Crown Court for a second day on Tuesday, structural engineer John Cutlack said the safe capacity for the West Terrace, where the fatal crush happened at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989, was about 30% lower than the number of tickets sold.

The jury heard the safety certificate for Sheffield Wednesday showed the terrace had a capacity of 7,200, but Cutlack calculated it would have been 5,426.

Under cross-examination by Benjamin Myers QC, defending Duckenfield, he agreed the stage would potentially be set for problems if more tickets were produced than a stadium could safely hold.

Cutlack told the court he was aware there had been issues of overcrowding at the ground in 1981 and 1987.

He said: “I think some of the seeds of this disaster were sown 10 years before, therefore it was likely when you had a capacity crowd some form of overcrowding could occur pretty much anywhere on that West Terrace.”

Cutlack identified problems with the ground, including an insufficient number of turnstiles for the Leppings Lane end, confusing signage, crush barriers which were not all at the recommended height or spacing and gates in the pitch perimeter fence which were less than the minimum recommended width.

He said the tunnel, which led to the central pens of the terrace where 96 Liverpool fans suffered fatal injuries, should have been manned to ensure overcrowding did not occur, and its slope was irregular and in places too steep.

Cutlack agreed that each of the points identified potentially “had a part to play in what happened”.

Duckenfield, 74, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans.

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.

Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, 69, denies breaching a condition of the ground’s safety certificate and failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety Act.

The trial continues.