Hillsborough trial: 'Nothing sinister' in officer's statement change

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image captionAlan Foster, Donald Denton and Peter Metcalf each deny perverting the course of justice

A former chief inspector on the Hillsborough inquiry reassured an officer "nothing sinister" was happening when he complained his statement was changed, a court heard.

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

Malcolm Ross worked on a team investigating the disaster in 1989.

The jury saw a memo sent by Mr Ross to an assistant chief constable.

Mr Ross wrote to Mervyn Jones, of West Midlands Police, that an officer had complained a "material particular" was altered in his statement and he would refuse to sign it, the Nightingale Court sitting in Salford was told.

image captionNinety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of the tragedy on 15 April 1989.

The court has heard former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent Donald Denton, 83, Alan Foster, 74, a retired detective chief inspector, and Peter Metcalf, 71, a former solicitor, vetted and amended statements of police officers before they were sent to West Midlands officers.

In the memo, sent on 23 May 1989, Mr Ross said: "I explained to him the accepted procedure between the judicial inquiry and the chief constables involved, ie South Yorkshire and West Midlands.

"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."

Mr Ross recorded that the officer thought that was "unacceptable" and said he and other officers were very "disenchanted".

'Fit for purpose'

He told the court: "My understanding was then that the role of South Yorkshire Police legal department was to get those recollections and remove the hearsay and to put them onto Criminal Justice Act statements and they would be then fit for purpose.

"That's what I was trying to reassure him, that in my view, nothing sinister was happening, in my view what was happening was recollections were being made fit for purpose."

Mr Ross said the sort of comments which would be removed included officers saying things such as "where are the white shirts?", referring to those of the rank of inspector and above.

The court heard that following Mr Ross's memo, Mr Jones wrote to South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable, Peter Wright, and said: "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."

As well as the call taken by Mr Ross, he mentioned a call from a journalist at the Sheffield Star raising a similar matter.

The jury was told assistant chief constable Stuart Anderson later wrote a circular to South Yorkshire Police officers, based on advice sent by Metcalf, in which he said recollections were being edited to make them suitable as factual statements.

Ninety-six people died following the crush at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15 1989.

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

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