David Duckenfield should not have been match commander on the day of the Hillsborough disaster, a policing expert has said.
Retired senior policeman Douglas Hopkins, who has extensive experience of policing football matches, said putting Mr Duckenfield in charge of operations at the 1989 semi-final was a ‘step too far’ for him.
Giving expert evidence on policing tactics and strategy to the new inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans, Mr Hopkins said: “I don’t think he should have been put in that position.
“I don’t think he was experienced enough to take on that particular match at that particular time.
“It was just lack of being recently at major football matches where you’re going to get capacity crowds and to be the man right at the top in charge of it.
“I think it was a step too far for him.”
His evidence follows Mr Duckenfield telling the inquests he had been an ‘inexperienced’ match commander.
He had been promoted 19 days before the tragedy and inherited the role of match commander.
Shown footage of the build-up of fans outside the ground around half-an-hour before the 3pm kick-off, Mr Hopkins said a competent match commander would have considered delaying the kick-off.
He said by 2.40pm that it should have been ‘very obvious’ this needed to be done to calm the situation, with an announcement made to fans. He added that by 2.43pm the situation outside the gates was looking ‘exceedingly dangerous’.
Mr Duckenfield had agreed during his evidence that his failure to close a tunnel leading to the pens was the ‘direct cause’ of the 1989 tragedy.
It followed his order to open an exit gate to relieve congested turnstiles.
Mr Hopkins said the gate should have only have been partially opened and supporters should have been directed away from the already-full central pens. He said normally this instruction would be communicated by radio but as there appeared to be problems with radios on the day, someone should have been sent to tell people the gates would be opened.