Hillsborough Leppings Lane turnstiles 'not dangerous'

Leppings Lane turnstiles

A former secretary of Sheffield Wednesday has told an inquest the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough were "satisfactory".

Seven turnstiles had to allow an average of 1,443 fans into the ground, three times more supporters than at the opposite end.

Graham Mackrell disagreed access to the terraces was "dangerous" but said the count system was "deeply flawed".

Ninety-six fans died following a crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

'Plainly dangerous'

Pete Weatherby QC, who represents a group of Hillsborough families, asked: "It was three times the number of spectators you were expecting to get through the average turnstile on the Spion Kop or at the South Stand end.

Who were the 96 victims?

Eight of the Hillsborough victims, CW from top left: Paul Clark, Stephen Copoc, Tracey Cox, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, Steven Fox, Vincent Fitzsimmons, Christopher Edwards

"It was plainly dangerous, was it not?"

Mr Mackrell said: "Previous experience had shown us it had been satisfactory."

The jury heard Mr Mackrell had not asked stewards to count fans into the pens with hand-counters, a system which had been used by a previous secretary.

He said: "There was a system in place involving the police in relation to the control of people on the terraces.

"The situation I had inherited was with the co-operation of the police and the police were happy with the system that was in place."

Nick Brown, another barrister representing a group of Hillsborough families, said: "And logically, if you had engaged your brain about it, a system that was deeply flawed, wasn't it?"

Mr Mackrell said: "In hindsight, I believe you are right."

Terraces on the Leppings Lane end Despite changes to the Leppings Lane end, the capacity on the safety certificate remained at 10,100

Mr Mackrell's position made him ultimately responsible for spectator safety but he relied on the advice of others, the inquests in Warrington heard.

He agreed his role gave him responsibility for the overall control of safety at the ground, but he said in reality he deferred to the advice of Dr Wilfred Eastwood, the club's adviser and engineering consultant.

Across the stadium, there were 23 turnstiles for the 24,500 Liverpool fans compared to 60 for 29,000 Nottingham Forest supporters.

During the hearing, he was shown a ticket for the Liverpool and Nottingham Forest game on 15 April which included a plan of the ground.

It showed the entrances to the Leppings Lane end labelled as "A B B C D" and the ticket advised fans to arrive "15 minutes before kick-off".

'Mislead' supporters

Mr Mackrell, who was club secretary from December 1986 and May 1999, said he did not know why there were two Bs and agreed there was no entrance D.

Mr Weatherby said: "It could only serve to mislead people at the match."

Mr Mackrell replied: "It would not assist. I don't think it would mislead greatly because I think there would be enough stewards, turnstile operators and police to guide people in the right direction.

"But I do make the point it was unsatisfactory."

The former secretary was asked whether a sign directing fans to the side pens on the Leppings Lane end was "adequate or not".

He said: "If you're saying, 'Is it massive?', no, it's not a big sign, but I think it is sufficient, yes."

Earlier Mr Mackrell said he had not been told about the crush at 1981 FA Cup semi-final between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers where 38 fans were injured, the inquests heard.

He said: "I had no note of it. There was no file on the matter."

The hearing continues.

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    Tuesday hello 07:00: Tom Airey BBC News

    Hello and welcome to Tuesday's Local Live for Merseyside. I'm here with all your news, sport, travel and weather updates.

    We are starting the page an hour early today due to the expected bad weather, so please send me any weather-related photos or information you have.

    You can get in touch via email, on Twitter, or by posting on our Facebook page.

     
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