David Duckenfield 'capable of Hillsborough role if he had prepared'

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David DuckenfieldImage source, Getty Images
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David Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 fans

David Duckenfield would have been able to handle the match commander role at Hillsborough if he had prepared "fully and diligently", his trial has heard.

He had been promoted to the police role less than three weeks before taking charge of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

But ex-police officer Douglas Hopkins told the trial at Preston Crown Court Mr Duckenfield, 75, "fell short of a reasonably competent commander".

Mr Duckenfield denies gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans.

Mr Hopkins, a former police officer who commanded matches at Arsenal's Highbury ground in the 1980s, said: "Having read his CV and heard what was said about him, his experience should have made him capable of taking on the role."

He said it may have been more appropriate for Mr Duckenfield's predecessor Brian Mole, who commanded semi-finals at the Sheffield Wednesday ground in 1987 and 1988, to take the role but there was no reason for Mr Duckenfield not to do it.

'Pure hindsight'

Asked by Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, if Mr Duckenfield fell short of a reasonably competent match commander, he said: "That's my opinion, sir."

He said "a reasonably competent match commander" should have paid attention to an area of 23 turnstiles for more than 24,000 Liverpool fans at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium.

Mr Hopkins said half an hour before kick-off the situation outside the turnstiles was becoming "critical".

He told the court extra officers could have been deployed to the area and consideration could have been given to delaying the kick-off or opening an exit gate for a controlled entry of fans, with police and stewards to check tickets.

Benjamin Myers QC, defending Mr Duckenfield, suggested Mr Hopkins' opinions were "pure hindsight".

Mr Hopkins said: "You can browbeat me all you like, Mr Myers, I do not agree. It is not hindsight."

The court has heard Mr Duckenfield ordered the opening of exit gates after crowds built up outside the turnstiles, allowing those outside to head down the central tunnel to the pens where a fatal crush happened at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

The trial continues.