Keep your nose out, Sheffield council told safety expert over Hillsborough fears

A HEALTH and safety expert was told by his bosses to “keep his nose out” of safety concerns at Hillsborough a year before the disaster killed 96 Liverpool fans, a jury heard today.

The scene unfolding at Hillsborough. PA.

Paul Jackson was a health and safety officer with Sheffield City Council’s Environmental Protection Unit at the time of the tragedy on April 15, 1989.

But today Mr Jackson told the jury hearing the inquests into the deaths, he had been made aware of safety concerns over the crush barriers, their height and spacings, on the terraces at Hillsborough 12 months before the disaster.

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One crash barrier gave way as 96 fans were crushed to death on the Leppings Lane terrace of Sheffield Wednesday’s ground as Liverpool FC took on Nottingham Forest at the start of the FA Cup semi-final.

Mr Jackson said: “I had been told there was problems with the barriers and I had been told not to get involved with it.”

He said before he went on a visit to the stadium in 1988, his line managers said to him: “Just don’t go into that area. Not to stick my nose in.

“That it was politically sensitive and that I should keep out of it.

“There had been previous concerns over them.”

Christina Lambert QC, counsel for the inquests, asked if this caused him “disquiet”.

Mr Jackson said: “It was sort of the approach on safety generally,” adding: “In terms of things that happened at Sheffield City Council at the time, not terribly unusual.”

The witness said he believed “other parts” of the council would deal with the matter and it was an “area looked after by somebody else.”

He said he made his own visit to Hillsborough to look at the barriers.

There he saw Dr Wilfred Eastwood, the club’s engineering adviser, a man of “strong opinions” who “knew his own mind”, the jury have heard.

Mr Jackson added: “I left it with the building surveyor and Dr Eastwood, who also made it clear he really did not want us there.”

Ms Lambert continued: “But you could have no confidence that they would act on these problems with the crash barriers?”

Mr Jackson replied: “I did not have any great confidence.”

The jury heard Mr Jackson had made a statement to West Midlands Police in 1989 and he described a “culture that contributed to the problem” concerning the council’s approach to safety.

But when he gave the statement to police, Mr Jackson said he did not “bring up” the matter of being told to “keep his nose out” of the barriers problem at Hillsborough.

Witnesses from the council, match hosts Sheffield Wednesday FC and South Yorkshire Police have been facing questions from lawyers for the coroner Mr Justice Goldberg and lawyers representing the families of the 96 victims who died at Hillsborough.

The hearing in Warrington continues.