THE trial of former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield ended with a “not guilty” verdict to the charge of manslaughter ("Cries of ‘stitch up’ as Hillsborough chief is cleared of manslaughter", The Herald, November 29). Only someone with a heart of stone would fail to empathise with the disappointment of the victims’ families.

However, in the course of his summing up, Mr Duckenfield’s barrister said “there are so many other people at fault, and so many causes”. Is there no substance to this? For instance, the prosecution alleged Mr Duckenfield had a "personal responsibility" for what happened at the match. Did Duckenfield have a personal responsibility for the victims being caged in pens? Let’s be blunt, steel cages, whose construction allowed only one means of egress in the event of an accident in the area behind the terracing – through the front on to the playing surface, one by one. Not only was this utterly inadequate to deal with the developing tragedy at Hillsborough, of fans rushing on to a terrace, where the middle two of the four pens it was divided into, were already full to the point where people were by now dying, but as Professor Phil Scraton noted “no one was to be allowed access to the track from the terraces without the consent of a senior officer”.

Many stadia in England were configured like Hillsborough, basically assuming spectators were hooligans who must be prevented from getting anywhere near the pitch or each other. Why else would steel pens be thought necessary? As the Sunday Times pronounced in 1985, football was “a slum sport, played in slum stadiums and increasingly watched by slum people”. Even given undoubted problems with hooliganism, should Health and Safety law no longer apply?

Mr Duckenfield has been found to have no criminal responsibility for events, but these were foreseeable long before the day of the tragedy.

First, Hillsborough had no valid safety certificate. Its 1979 certificate was never updated. Yet the game was awarded to it by the FA. Was there no responsibility for the FA to establish the safety of spectators at its match? Secondly, in 1981, 38 Spurs fans were injured during another FA Cup semi-final with Wolves, also at the Leppings Lane end. This was no minor incident – the 38 injuries included broken arms, a broken leg and crushed ribs. Disaster was only averted when the police allowed 150 fans through the gate at the front to sit at the pitch side. The FA could hardly say it had not been warned.

The relatives are gravely disappointed by last Thursday's judgement. Christine Burke said from the court gallery: "I would like to know who is responsible for my father's death because someone is." Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “I am ashamed of the system in this country that is not holding anyone responsible for the deaths of 96 people.” We should all be ashamed of a system content to pin responsibility on a Chief Superintendent whose management was critically wanting in a situation created for him by others by deed or inaction.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.