Socialist Worker

Solicitor advised police officer to ‘review’ criticism of top cops after Hillsborough disaster

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2754

A memorial to the victims of the Hillsborough football disaster

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


A solicitor advised a police officer to review his criticism of senior officers on duty during the Hillsborough football disaster, a court heard on Wednesday.

PC Philip Hooson had said he could not “recall at any time any senior officer taking command of the situation or organising anything” during the disaster. “I know as a matter of fact that certainly did not happen where I was, irrespective of what is now being said,” he added.

The comments did not appear in his final statement after Peter Metcalf advised Hooson that he “may wish to review” them.

Some 96 Liverpool fans died as a result of the 1989 disaster, after a crush in two pens at the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield stadium.

Former chief superintendent Donald Denton, former detective chief inspector Alan Foster and former solicitor Peter Metcalf are standing trial over their conduct following the disaster.

They are accused of recommending and imposing alterations to police statements. All three deny two counts of perverting the course of justice.

Following the disaster, West Midlands Police (WMP) collected statements from South Yorkshire Police cops ahead of an inquiry. The jury has heard details of more than 30 examples of statements that were reviewed and often amended.

Another was that of PC Robert House, which had said there were “very few police officers” in the area outside the Hillsborough stadium.

The court head that Foster asked a detective inspector to see House regarding reviewing the comment or “removing it altogether”. Foster was later informed that House refused to alter or delete the comment.

The jury was shown Foster’s reply, which said he didn’t consider the comment “sufficiently critical to warrant pursuing this further”.

On Tuesday, the court heard that a PC’s account was changed to cut criticism of the cops but criticism of fans was left in.

Disaster 

PC Maxwell Groome had been on duty at Hillsborough during the disaster. A line in his original statement reading, “The control room seemed to have been hit by some sort of paralysis,” was removed in an amended version.

Sarah Whitehouse QC, prosecuting, showed the court a fax from Metcalf to Denton. It said reference to “control room paralysis” was “comment”.

Metcalf also said a list of paragraphs in Groome’s original statement were “not appropriate for inclusion in a statement of fact”.

They included questioning of why kick-off was not delayed and why there were fewer police on duty compared to the previous year.

Groome had also claimed that policing at Hillsborough had become “complacent” and said the organisation of the match was “poor”. And he suggested that control room staff weren’t used to pressure.

All of these remarks had been crossed out and did not appear in a later copy of Groome’s statement that went to WMP. But two items on the list remained.

They included a paragraph relating to drunken fans and fights breaking out in a previous season. A line that said former match commander chief superintendent Brian Mole had previously walked around the pitch track also remained.

Yet the words “but this did not happen this year” was deleted.

The court saw notes showing that Groome had objected to signing the statement. The trial, in Salford, continues. 


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