Hillsborough: Solicitor accused of altering statements was "honestly doing his job" court hears

Donald Denton, Alan Foster and Peter Metcalf Credit: PA images

Lawyers for a solicitor alleged to have changed police statements after the Hillsborough disaster have claimed the "real perversion of justice" is that he has to stand trial.

Peter Metcalf, 71, who acted as solicitor for South Yorkshire Police following the tragedy at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, is charged along with former senior officers Donald Denton, 83, and Alan Foster, 74, with perverting the course of justice.

On Wednesday, Jonathan Goldberg QC, defending Metcalf, told the jury at the Lowry Theatre in Salford, he had been "honestly doing his job".

Peter Metcalf

The court has heard statements, which were reviewed by Metcalf, were amended to remove references to police officers being "like headless chickens" and "light on manpower".

He said the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died, had become synonymous with "cover up" but he predicted the jury would find no evidence to justify that.

He said: "Cover-up is and always was a libel, which has just grown exponentially in the media over the decades without justification."

Sarah Whitehouse QC, prosecuting, told the court the alleged amendments to the statements of police officers focused on areas where the force expected to face criticism at an inquiry led by Lord Justice Taylor, which was ordered by the Government to look at safety at sports events.

She said an account by Pc Peter Finnerty had originally said no instructions were given to police officers on the day.

She told the court that in the statement, he said: "I am sure many of them, like me, felt like headless chickens running about."

The court heard he went on to say: "I felt ashamed for quite a while that the police did not respond professionally after the deaths were established."

A note on the original statement, which appeared to be in Foster's handwriting, instructed a detective inspector to review the account and an amended version was produced without the comments, the court heard.

The jury was told Pc William Crawford said in his statement he thought the force was "very light on manpower" and usually a group of officers would be stationed at the tunnel to direct fans away from the central pens, where the fatal crush at the FA Cup semi-final happened.

Metcalf, a partner at solicitors' firm Hammond Suddards, suggested a review of those comments, Ms Whitehouse said, adding that the references were deleted from a later account.

In a statement by Inspector Robert Creaser, references to a request to delay the kick-off and difficulties with police radios were removed, the court heard.

Denton, of Bents Drive, Sheffield, Foster, of Rossett Avenue, Harrogate, and Metcalf, of Cragg Drive, Ilkley, each deny two counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.