Socialist Worker

Hillsborough cops’ statements critical of police actions were ‘deleted in blue ink’

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2752

A memorial for the victims of the 1989 football disaster

A memorial for the victims of the 1989 football disaster (Pic: Flickr/Ben Sutherland)


Police statements that criticised cops’ actions during the Hillsborough disaster were “deleted in blue ink”, a court has heard.

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

Retired South Yorkshire Police (SYP) chief superintendent Donald Denton and former detective chief inspector Alan Foster are on trial over their actions following the disaster.

Former solicitor Peter Metcalf, who advised SYP after the disaster, is also on trial. All three deny two counts of perverting the course of justice.

Metcalf advised SYP on changes to be made to police officers’ statements in the wake of the disaster, the court has heard. And Denton and Foster made sure the changes were made.

One deleted comment from a constable had said he and other cops had been running around “like headless chickens”.

QC Sarah Whitehouse, prosecuting, said PC Peter Finnerty heard fans screaming, “People are dying.”

He wrote in a statement, “This concerned me as there were lots of officers near me and no instructions were given to assist. No details were given about what was really happening.

“I’m sure many of them, like me, felt like headless chickens running about.”

He added that he felt “ashamed” that police “did not respond professionally after the deaths were established”.

Whitehouse said Foster amended Finnerty’s statement.

Directing 

Another statement, from PC William Crawford, said police had not been directing fans to other areas when the central pens became full. The court heard that Metcalf advised that Crawford’s account “be amended”.

“The statement was amended by deleting all reference to the shortage of manpower and use of serials in the centre tunnel,” said Whitehouse.

The jury was shown a letter from Metcalf to William Woodward QC, who was representing SYP at an inquiry. Metcalf said, “It seems to instructing solicitors that the objective to be pursued at the inquiry is the presentation of South Yorkshire Police in the best possible light, consistent with the facts that are brought out.”

Jonathan Goldberg, defending Metcalf, said that claims that a cover-up followed the disaster were a “libel” that had no justification.

Goldberg said Metcalf “was entitled both legally and professionally to advise the editing of the statements”

“That is far from claiming that he made a perfect job of it,” Goldberg added. “He has admitted to honest errors of judgement in several cases.”

Goldberg said that the “real perversion of justice” was that Metcalf is being prosecuted “in his old age, for just doing his job”.

The trial in Salford, Greater Manchester, continues. 


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