Hillsborough safety certificate 'breached ahead of disaster'

Terraces on the Leppings Lane end Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption Despite changes to the terraces on the Leppings Lane end, the capacity on the safety certificate remained at 10,100

Safety concerns at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium were raised by an official a year before the Hillsborough disaster, an inquest jury has heard.

But ex-council safety officer Paul Jackson was told by bosses in 1988 to "keep his nose out" of such concerns, the Warrington hearing was told.

Graham Mackrell, club safety officer at the time, also said he could not count fan-numbers at full capacity games.

Ninety-six fans died as a result of a crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

'No emergency plan'

The jury heard two conditions on the club's safety certificate had not been met.

One condition required the club to count the number of spectators going into different parts of the ground.

Christina Lambert QC, the lead counsel to the inquests, said "that condition could not have been satisfied" on 15 April 1989 and Mr Mackrell replied "correct".

She said the condition that required the club to keep records of the numbers of spectators admitted to the different areas of the ground, also "couldn't be satisfied."

Mr Mackrell said the club could only record a "global figure".

Ms Lambert said: "That would be a breach of the safety certificate."

Mr Mackrell said: 'Yes.'

Ahead of the Liverpool and Nottingham Forest game on 15 April, Mr Jackson wrote a report about the stadium's safety because he had not seen the club's emergency response plan to deal with major incidents.

He said he had been made aware of "problems" over the height and spacing of the barriers on the terraces, the inquests heard.

Paperwork shredded

He said: "I had been told there was problems with the barriers and I had been told not to get involved with it."

Before a stadium visit in 1988, Mr Jackson claimed his line managers said: "Just don't go into that area. Not to stick my nose in."

"There had been previous concerns over them," he added.

The jury was told Mr Jackson later made his own visit to the stadium to look at the barriers.

Image copyright Inquest handout
Image caption A council safety officer had not seen Sheffield Wednesday's emergency response plan to deal with major incidents

He said he had not seen a plan for an emergency response but added "there may have been one, but they wouldn't show it to me".

Mr Jackson said: "[The report] said that there was not an emergency response plan and 'we recommend that there shouldn't be a safety certificate granted'."

The coroner heard the report had never been found at Sheffield City Council and Mr Jackson did not mention it in a statement given to West Midlands Police in 1989.

About 50 lever arch files of paperwork from the Environmental Services department had been shredded in the 1990s, the jury was told.

A statement from Stephen Webster, a manager at the council's Health Protection Services department, said: "No doubt the paperwork involved, which was destroyed, included paperwork relating to Hillsborough."

Mr Jackson said he met Sheffield Wednesday's Mr Mackrell, also club secretary at the time, during an inspection of Hillsborough in 1988.

He told the inquest: "My impression then was that Mr Mackrell was more or less a token safety officer.

"Someone who had been appointed because of the need to appoint someone to that position."

The inquest continues.

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