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Hillsborough trial: Statements ‘altered to mask police failings’

(Police spy’s bosses knew activist was being duped into sexual relationship, court told)

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Alan Foster, Donald Denton and Peter MetcalfIMAGE COPYRIGHTPA MEDIA
image caption(L-R) Alan Foster, Donald Denton and Peter Metcalf are on trial

Two South Yorkshire Police officers altered statements to “mask” the force’s failings after the Hillsborough disaster, a court has heard.

Ninety-six Liverpool football fans died as a result of the tragedy at an FA Cup semi-final on 15 April 1989.

Retired Ch Supt Donald Denton, 83, retired Det Ch Insp Alan Foster, 74, and former solicitor Peter Metcalf, 71, deny perverting the course of justice.

The Nightingale court in Salford heard several police accounts were “amended”.

Jurors were told Mr Metcalf advised on what alterations should be made and Mr Denton and Mr Foster followed his advice and changed the accounts.

Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse QC said: “The allegation is that 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.

“They did this by altering accounts given by police officers who were present on the day.”

She told jurors the effect of the alterations “was to mask failings on the part of South Yorkshire Police in their planning and execution of the policing of the football match”.

Fans in the west terrace of Hillsborough stadiumIMAGE COPYRIGHTINDEPENDENT OFFICE FOR POLICE CONDUCT/PA MEDIA
image captionNinety-six people died as a result of the crush at Hillsborough

The trial is about the aftermath of the crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium during the semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Ms Whitehouse told the court Mr Metcalf was a partner in Hammond Suddards, who acted for South Yorkshire Police’s insurers after the disaster.

He was also instructed to act for the force at an inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Taylor to look at safety at sports events following the tragedy and in any civil litigation.

West Midlands Police took charge of investigations after the disaster and asked for written accounts made by officers who were present on the day to be handed over to them, jurors heard.

Ms Whitehouse said before the accounts were handed over, Mr Metcalf reviewed them, suggested alterations which were carried out by Mr Foster and Mr Denton.

Hillsborough victims
image captionThe people who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster
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Mr Denton, of Sheffield, Mr Foster, of Harrogate, and Mr Metcalf, of Ilkley, each deny two counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.

Jurors were told to “forget everything” they had heard before about the disaster and concentrate only on the evidence heard in court.

The trial at the Lowry theatre – which has been converted into a temporary courtroom to ensure social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic – is expected to last 16 weeks.

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