Police officers acquitted in Hillsborough trial

A judge has ruled that two retired police officers and an ex-solicitor accused of altering police statements following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster have no case to answer.

Retired South Yorkshire Police officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster, as well as the force’s former solicitor Peter Metcalf, had been accused of changing 68 statements to “mask the failings” of the force following the disaster.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of the disaster, which occurred at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989.

The three individuals had denied perverting the course of justice and Mr Justice William Davis ruled yesterday (Wednesday) that they had no case to answer. The judge reached this decision after confirming that the trio’s statements were prepared for the 1990 Taylor Report into the causes of the disaster.

The judge said that the report was a statutory inquiry and so was not considered a court of law. As a result, it was not a “course of public justice” that could be perverted, the BBC reports.

The families of the victims have hit out at yesterday’s ruling. Margaret Aspinall, mother of 18-year-old victim James, said: “What a very sad day today is for the justice system in this country. 32 years the families have been fighting to get to the truth.”

In 2019, former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent David Duckenfield was found not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter owing to his role as match commander on the day of the disaster.

Following yesterday’s ruling, Liverpool FC said in a statement that it noted the developments with “huge disappointment”.

The statement added: “While it would not be our place, legally or otherwise, to comment on those proceedings as they pertain to individuals, it is incumbent on us to forcefully point out that the 96 victims, their families, survivors and all those who suffered as a result of the Hillsborough tragedy have continuously been failed in their pursuit for justice.

“We salute all those who have campaigned for justice. They have been let down yet again. We have a situation in which 96 people were unlawfully killed and yet no individual or group has been deemed legally culpable for their deaths.

“As ever, our thoughts are with the families, survivors and campaigners and we would reiterate that, as established by the 2016 inquests, the behaviour of our supporters was not a contributory factor in the disaster, a truth for which the bereaved families had to fight for over a quarter of a century. The 96 will never be forgotten.”

The trial brings an end to the criminal investigations into the Hillsborough disaster.

Image: Gareth Simpson/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size