Socialist Worker

Top cop said there was ‘nothing sinister’ about changes to police officer’s statement after Hillsborough

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2755

A memorial to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster

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


A former chief inspector told an officer there was “nothing sinister” about changes made to his statement on the Hillsborough disaster, a court has heard.

Malcolm Ross, then chief inspector of West Midlands Police (WMP), worked on a team investigating the 1989 disaster. A court heard on Monday that Ross told WMP assistant chief constable Mervyn Jones that an officer had complained about his statement being altered.

The officer had said a “material particular” had been altered and that he would refuse to sign the statement.

The memo from Ross to Jones was sent on 23 May 1989, the month following the disaster. “I explained to him the accepted procedure between the judicial inquiry and the chief constables involved, ie South Yorkshire and West Midlands,” it said.

“And that statements were being examined by South Yorkshire Police legal department in an attempt to remove from the recollections any comments which were made with full emotion following the incident, and which were or could be considered embarrassing or detrimental to the South Yorkshire Police in general and individual officers in particular.”

Ross said the officer thought this “unacceptable” and had said he and other officers were “disenchanted”.

Ross told the court that he understood the role of the South Yorkshire Police (SYP) legal department’s role was to “remove hearsay”.

He said of the officer who complained, “I was trying to reassure him that nothing sinister was happening. Recollections were being made fit for purpose.”

Referred 

Ross said the kind of comments that would be removed from statements included officers saying, “Where are the white shirts?” This referred to cops of the rank of inspector and above.

Jones wrote to then South Yorkshire Police (SYP) chief constable Peter Wright following Ross’s memo. “I thought I would advise you discreetly that we have had two approaches from separate sources suggesting that certain omissions have been made from officers’ recollections,” he said.

Some 96 Liverpool fans died as a result of the disaster, after a crush in two pens at Hillsborough’s Leppings Lane end.

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

The court has heard that Metcalf advised changes to police statements and that Denton and Foster implemented the changes. All three deny two counts of perverting the course of justice.

The trial, in Salford, continues.


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