Socialist Worker

Cops and lawyers altered witness statements after Hillsborough, court hears

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2752

A memorial to the victims of the Hillsborough football disaster

A memorial to the victims of the Hillsborough football disaster (Pic: Flickr/Bryan Ledgard)


Senior cops and a lawyer altered witness statements to cover up police failings relating to the Hillsborough football disaster, a court has heard.

Some 96 Liverpool fans died as a result of the 1989 disaster, after a crush built up in two pens of the stadium.

Trials of former solicitor Peter Metcalf, retired South Yorkshire Police (SYP) chief superintendent Donald Denton, and former detective chief inspector Alan Foster got underway this week.

Each denies two counts of perverting the court of justice.

Sarah Whitehouse QC opened the case against them at the Lowry Theatre in Salford on Tuesday. “These three tried to minimise the blame that might be heaped upon the South Yorkshire Police at the many different forms of inquiry that followed that dreadful day,” she said.

“They did this by altering accounts given by police officers who were present on the day. They knew those accounts were going to end up being sent to a number of inquiries that would follow the disaster.”

The court heard that Metcalf advised on alterations to be made, while Denton and Foster “saw to it that the advice was followed and the accounts were amended”.

Partner 

Metcalf was a partner in the Hammond Suddards solicitors’ firm at the time of the disaster. The court heard that he was asked to act for SYP insurers, Municipal Mutual Insurance, due to expected claims for compensation.

He was later asked to act for SYP at an inquiry into the disaster led by Lord Justice Taylor, and to represent it in any civil litigation.

West Midlands Police was appointed to gather evidence for the Taylor inquiry. When it requested statements from SYP officers who had been on duty during the disaster, Metcalf recommended altering some of them.

Whitehouse said the effect of the changes “was to mask failings on the part of South Yorkshire Police in their planning and execution of the policing of the match”.

She told the court that Hillsborough has “become connected in the minds of many as linked with cover-ups and attempts to hide the real facts”.

And she added that the trial is not about the causes of the disaster or “whose fault” it was. Instead, it “is about the actions of the three defendants after the event”.

The trial, expected to last 16 weeks, continues.


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