Jury hears accused Hillsborough lawyer 'may have made errors but complied with duty'

Former solicitor Peter Metcalf Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images

A court has heard that a lawyer accused of changing police statements following the Hillsborough disaster admitted he may have made "errors" but said he complied with his duty.

Peter Metcalf, of Cragg Drive, Ilkley, acted as a solicitor for South Yorkshire Police in the aftermath of the 1989 tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives.

The 71 year old is on trial alongside former chief superintendent Donald Denton, 83, and retired detective chief inspector Alan Foster, 74. All three deny perverting the course of justice.

A jury at the Nightingale court in the Lowry Theatre, Salford has heard that the men were involved in a process of amending statements made by officers before a public inquiry looking at safety at sports grounds.

Timothy Kendal, representing Metcalf, showed a series of documents to jurors.

The court heard that, in a previous statement, Metcalf, who was instructed by Municipal Mutual Insurance to represent South Yorkshire Police, said: "I reviewed a large quantity of documents and reports in a short period of time and was necessarily subjective as I was exercising judgment as to what was factual and what was merely comment.

"I accept that, during that process, I may have made errors in small numbers of cases; however, such errors were neither deliberate nor intentional, nor motivated by a desire to mislead or misinform, nor consciously influenced by the views or wishes of others."

The court heard that, in May 1989, Metcalf had written that the objective to be "pursued at the inquiry" was the presentation of the force in the "best possible light, consistent with the facts that are brought out".

In a statement he made on May 12 2015, the retired solicitor said he owed a duty to act in the best interests of his client but also owed a duty as a solicitor not to mislead or misinform a court or public inquiry.

In the statement, he said: "I believe I attempted to comply with and did comply with that duty throughout the witness statement review process."

One member of the jury was discharged at the beginning of Tuesday's hearing after the court heard she had been taken ill.

Judge Mr Justice William Davis said: "I'm going to discharge her from being a member of this jury and we will continue with a jury of 11, rather than 12."

Retired South Yorkshire Police officers Alan Foster and Donald Denton Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

Denton, of Bents Drive, Sheffield, was not present for the hearing but the judge told jurors his absence does not "impinge on his effective participation" in the case.

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

The trial, which began last week, is expected to last until August.