It was “breathtakingly unfair” to prosecute Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield, a jury has been told.
Ben Myers QC made the claim in his closing speech at Preston Crown Court in defence of Mr Duckenfield.
The 74-year-old denies gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans, on 15 April 1989.
Mr Myers also said “it must be one of the most heartbreaking cases ever to come before a British court”.
The barrister told the jury that failings at Hillsborough included faulty police radios, poor signage and stadium structure – none of which were the fault of Mr Duckenfield.
He said his client was being “judged by a different standard to everyone else”, adding: “This is not a done deal. Being here proves absolutely nothing, no matter how big the case.
“The fact we are here doesn’t make David Duckenfield guilty.”
He then turned to the defendant and said: “Look at him now. Someone has to stand up for him. We do that, and we do it with vigour. He is an ageing man and not in the best of health.”
Mr Myers said it would be “very wrong indeed” to convict Mr Duckenfield “as a way of expressing” sympathy over what happened.
On Thursday prosecutor Richard Matthews QC told the jury that Mr Duckenfield had “ultimate responsibility” and should have made “lifesaving decisions”.
Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.
Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, 69, denies failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety Act.
The trial continues.