Most senior surviving police chief in post on day of the Hillsborough disaster gives evidence at new inquests

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The most senior surviving member of the South Yorkshire Police management team in post on the day of the Hillsborough disaster is giving evidence at the inquest into the deaths of 96 fans today.

Peter Hayes was the deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire Police in April 1989 when Liverpool fans were crushed to death on the terraces at Sheffield Wednesday’s football stadium during an FA Cup semi-final.

Jurors were told he did not make a statement about the Hillsborough disaster at the time and was first asked about the matters in the last year or two.

Mr Hayes, who was off duty on the day of the disaster, said he had no involvement with the planning or policing of the 1989 semi-final.

When asked if the police senior management team at the time had given any consideration about the ability of Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who was promoted just weeks before the game, to command the semi-final, Mr Hayes said: “My understanding is that all of this was discussed at a chief officer meeting at which I am fairly certain I wasn’t present.

“It seems apparent to me that a) it was discussed and b) my colleagues must have thought, from the information they were given, that Mr Duckenfield was competent.

He said Chief Constable Peter Wright agreed to deal with the Government, Home Office, police inspectorate and media and that Mr Hayes was asked to deal with legal issues.

“We thought that in due course there’d be litigation on behalf of the fans and that sort of thing,” he said.

“He (Mr Wright) directed me to pay special attention to welfare matters, because he was much concerned about the trauma suffered by many police officers at the ground.”

He said in the immediate aftermath of the disaster the Chief Constable had been ‘open minded’ as to the cause but admitted that ‘comment was being made that the fans had behaved in such a way as to cause a lot of difficulties for the police outside the ground’.