Lawyers

Hillsborough officer invited by accused lawyer to ‘overview’ assertion, court docket advised

A police officer’s recollection about a lack of senior officers taking command at Hillsborough was removed from his statement after a lawyer suggested he review it, a court has heard.

Former chief superintendent Donald Denton, 83, Alan Foster, 74, a retired detective chief inspector, and Peter Metcalf, 71, a former solicitor, are accused of amending police statements to minimise the blame on South Yorkshire Police after the disaster at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989, in which 96 Liverpool fans died.

On Wednesday, the Nightingale court at the Lowry Theatre, Salford, was shown the original statement of Pc Philip Hooson, which said: “I cannot recall at any time any senior officer taking command of the situation or organising anything.

Retired police officers Donald Denton, left to right, and Alan Foster, and solicitor Peter Metcalf
Retired police officers Donald Denton, left to right, and Alan Foster, and solicitor Peter Metcalf (PA)

“I know as a matter of fact that certainly did not happen where I was, irrespective of what is now being said.”

The court heard that Metcalf, who was instructed by Municipal Mutual Insurance to act for the force following the tragedy, advised Mr Hooson “may wish to review” the comments.

The remarks did not appear in later versions of Mr Hooson’s statement, the jury was told.

Officers from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which investigated South Yorkshire Police’s response to the disaster, have so far taken the jury through more than 30 examples of statements which were reviewed and often amended.

After being vetted, the statements were sent to West Midlands Police, the force investigating the tragedy, and used for the public inquiry into safety at sports grounds led by Lord Justice Taylor.

The court was also shown the statement of Pc Robert House, who described seeing “very few police officers” in an area outside the stadium.

Hillsborough stadium
The Hillsborough disaster happened on April 15 1989 (Independent Office for Police Conduct/PA)

The court heard that Foster asked a detective inspector to see Mr House with a view to reviewing the paragraph or “removing it altogether” after a handwritten note by another officer suggested he was “making an assumption we can manage without”.

IOPC officer Andrew Smith confirmed to the court that a note had gone back to Foster informing him Mr House refused to alter or delete the comments.

In Foster’s reply, shown to the court, he said having reread the statement he did not consider the comment “particularly important”.

He added: “I don’t think that the remark he makes is sufficiently critical to warrant pursuing this further.”

Denton, of Bents Drive, Sheffield, Foster, of Rossett Avenue, Harrogate, and Metcalf, of Cragg Drive, Ilkley, each deny two counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.

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