Hillsborough: Trial for ex-police officers and solicitor collapses

26 May 2021, 15:09

96 people died in the disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989
96 people died in the disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

The trial of two retired police officers and a solicitor accused of perverting the course of justice following the Hillsborough disaster has collapsed after the judge ruled there was no case to answer.

Former chief superintendent Donald Denton, 83, retired detective chief inspector Alan Foster, 74, and Peter Metcalf, 71, were each accused of two counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.

It was alleged they were involved in a process of amending officers' statements to minimise the blame on South Yorkshire Police following the disaster at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989.

However, the jury was directed to return not guilty verdicts for all counts.

In a ruling handed down at the Nightingale court at the Lowry theatre in Salford on Wednesday, judge Mr Justice William Davis said the amended statements were intended for a public inquiry into safety at sports grounds led by Lord Justice Taylor, but that was not a course of public justice.

He concluded there was no case fit for consideration by the jury based on any of the six counts on the indictment.

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In the ruling, he said: "I repeat my observation about the anxiety and distress being felt by the families of those affected by the Hillsborough disaster.

"These proceedings have been very drawn-out following a lengthy trial process involving the match commander.

"I know the strength of feeling there was after his acquittal. I am aware that these proceedings also have been observed with interest.

"However, whatever the anxiety and distress, I have to determine whether there is evidence to support the particular criminal offence with which these defendants have been charged.

"In concluding that there is not, that is all I do."

Liverpool FC mark the 32nd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster
Liverpool FC mark the 32nd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Picture: Getty

The collapse of the trial was met with dismay from many.

Speaking in court before the jury came in, Christine Burke, whose father Henry died in the disaster, said: "The judiciary is broken."

She said her father had been buried "with a lie".

She added: "The law needs to change."

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who has been heavily involved in the campaign for justice for Hillsborough victims, also voiced his disappointment in a series of tweets.

He also called for the introduction of what he called a "Hillsborough Law", which would make it a legal obligation for public institutions to tell the truth during investigations and inquiries.

The Crown Prosecution Service defended its decision to prosecute, saying it was "right to bring this case and for a court to hear the evidence of what happened in the aftermath" of the disaster.

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The Hillsborough disaster was a crush of football fans at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield on April 15 1989, resulting in the deaths of 96 people and inflicting injuries on hundreds more.

The role the police played in the incident has been under scrutiny for years, and Mr Denton, Mr Metcalf and Mr Foster were charged in 2017 following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into allegations of a cover-up by police following the tragedy.

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