Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Hillsborough: how police doctored 164 pieces of evidence

Debbie Routledge, a survivor in the Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Debbie Routledge, a survivor in the Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
The Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, trying to escape severe overcrowding
Fans on the pitch at Hillsborough. FA Cup semi final April 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. 96 football fans lost their lives in Britain's worst stadium disaster
Fans receiving attention on the pitch. Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield will always bear the scar of England's worst football tragedy. On April 15th 1989, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives having gone to watch their side contest an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest
Gill and Brian Caldwell being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough
An injured fan receiveing attention on the pitch
An injured fan sits against the goalpost with his leg in a splint
Fans recieving medical attention on the pitch
Hillsborough disaster policeman looks at a pile of police helmets lying on pitch amongst debris
Police shielding injured fans at Hillsborough
Kevin Williams stretchered off on the Hillsborough pitch during the Hillsborough disaster
Injured fans lie on advertising boards which were used as makeshift stretchers
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Bent and twisted fencing at Hillsborough in the aftermath of the tragedy
A distraught young Liverpool fan in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, his wife Marina and daughter Kelly during the memorial service for the victims of the Hillsborough Tragedy.
Scarves and floral tributes laid at Anfield
Scarves and floral tributes at Hillsborough
A young boy adding to the floral tributes at Anfield's Shankly gates
A message written on a wall remebering the Hillsborough disaster victims
Andrew Devine, coma victim of the Hillsborough football disaster
Hillsborough disaster victim Andrew Devine who is now communicating by pressing a micro switch
Margaret Thatcher at Hillsborough
Anfield fans leave flowers in the nets
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
A sea of flowers at Hillsborough stadium, in memory of the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough
Hillsborough Memorial
A Liverpool supporter holding a banner
Fans and players observe a minutes silence at Hillsborough
Liverpool's Xabi Alonso wearing a black armband in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: The Hillsborough memorial is covered with tributes at Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club on September 10, 2012 in Liverpool, England. On Wednesday relatives and friends of the 96 victims will see the full disclosure of all documents relating to the disaster when they are made public at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Fans crushed against the perimeter fence at Hillsborough

The Hillsborough Independent Panel has not ruled out the possibility of criminal prosecutions over the deliberate distortion of junior police officers' evidence, which saw 164 statements substantially altered and comments unfavourable to the constabulary removed or altered in 116.

Two of the four doctored statements revealed in yesterday's Independent also feature in the panel's detailed examination of a "review and alteration" process undertaken by a senior South Yorkshire officer, Chief Superintendent Donald Denton, and Peter Metcalf, a lawyer from the force's legal representatives Hammond Suddards, which left some junior officers deeply uncomfortable.

Also complicit in the process was the then Chief Constable of the force, Peter Wright, who knew officers were concerned about the editing, the panel's research shows. The South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service, whose own deep failings were an unexpected part of the report, altered 54 of the 101 statements produced by its own staff. "There's sufficient new evidence that cries out for proper consideration for the proper authorities whose job it will be to decide [if there are grounds] for a prosecution," said solicitor and panel member Raju Batt.

The panel's chapter on the doctored statements shows that officers were expressly told not to record their experiences in their pocket books – the standard way of providing an accurate record. The amendment of statements began when West Midlands Police and Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry teams asked to see them.

Yesterday's report details exhaustively the way the statements were changed – with correspondence between the force and its lawyers stating that material "unhelpful to the force's case" would be removed. The most significant amendments clearly altered the meaning of the original and in most, the end result was to downplay or remove criticisms made by officers about "police leadership or the response to the disaster".

The panel observed how references to "panic" were frequently removed. In total, 23 officers had references to "chaos", "fear", "panic" and "confusion" altered or deleted from their original recollections.

The panel chronicles a short, undated note later issued to officers with guidance on how to complete statements. It states that "no CRITICISMS" [the force's capital letters] should be "levelled at anyone in the text of your summary." Furthermore, there should be "no mention of the word CHAOTIC [force's capitals] or any of its derivatives". These requests were the "express wish" of a Detective Inspector King.

The panel report concludes that Lord Justice Taylor and Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, who conducted a scrutiny of the Hillsborough evidence, were wrong to say that the doctoring of evidence did not affect the course of justice.

Click here to read the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report

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