Hillsborough trial: Police 'had to fight back' over criticism

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Alan Foster, Donald Denton and Peter MetcalfImage source, PA Media
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Alan Foster, Donald Denton and Peter Metcalf deny perverting the course of justice

Police officers felt they had to "fight back" against "unfair" criticism over Hillsborough, a former detective has told a court.

Two retired officers and an ex-police solicitor are on trial accused of amending police statements to "mask failings" following the disaster.

Retired officer Graham Dovey said there was a sense senior officers and South Yorkshire Police "could be prosecuted".

Ninety-six football fans died in the 1989 terrace crush.

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

Image source, Independent Office for Police Conduct/PA Wire
Image caption,
The disaster on 15 April 1989 claimed 96 lives

The trial has heard police accounts were changed to remove references such as officers acting "like headless chickens".

Mr Dovey was a deputy detective inspector at South Yorkshire Police in 1989, and assigned to a team led by Ch Supt Terry Wain, which processed officers' statements in preparation for a public inquiry.

He told the court: "I think in everybody's mind there was the possibility some senior officers might be prosecuted, the force might be prosecuted and also there could be civil actions."

He was asked by Jonathan Goldberg QC, representing Mr Metcalf, if there was a feeling police were being criticised "day in, day out", which was "completely unfair".

Mr Dovey replied: "Yes."

Image caption,
The people who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster

Mr Goldberg asked: "Was there a feeling that Liverpool fans had a lot to answer for in terms of why things had gone wrong that day?"

Mr Dovey said: "There was some of that, yes."

Asked if there was a feeling within the force of "we have to fight back, we have to defend ourselves against this criticism", Mr Dovey agreed there was.

He also agreed they planned to do that by digging out evidence "honestly".

He told the court the team working under Mr Wain had been given photocopies of officers' accounts highlighted, underlined or crossed out in some sections.

Asked which parts, Mr Dovey said "mainly where individual officers had criticised senior officers".

Mr Denton, of Sheffield; Mr Foster, of Harrogate, and Mr Metcalf, of Ilkley, each deny two counts of perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.

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