Police watchdog issues statement on collapse of Hillsborough trial after judge rules 'no case to answer'
The police watchdog has responded to the collapse of the trial of two former police officers and a solicitor accused of perverting the course of justice following the Hillsborough disaster.
Their trial collapsed after the judge in the case ruled today that all three had ‘no case to answer’.
Lawyers for former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton, aged 83; retired Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster, 74, and Peter Metcalf, 71, who was a solicitor for South Yorkshire Police in 1989, successfully applied to have the case against the trio dismissed.
The men were each accused of two counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice and it was alleged they were involved in a process of amending officers’ statements to minimise the blame on South Yorkshire Police following the disaster at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989, in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives after a crush on the terraces.
Judge Mr Justice William Davis said there was not enough evidence to support the charges.
They were charged following an investigation by the police watchdog – the Independent Office for Police Conduct – into allegations of a police cover-up following the Hillsborough tragedy.
Sir Norman Bettison, a Chief Inspector at the time, was charged with misconduct in a public office but the case was dropped.
The match commander on the day, David Duckenfield, was charged with gross negligence manslaughter in 2017 but he was cleared in 2019 at a retrial, after the jury in his first trial was unable to reach a verdict.
In May 2019, former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell was fined £6,500 and ordered to pay £5,000 costs after he was convicted of failing to ensure the health and safety of fans arriving at the ground on the day of the disaster.
IOPC Deputy Director General, Claire Bassett, said: “We acknowledge the court’s decision today, which we know has come as a bitter disappointment to the families of those who lost their lives at the Hillsborough disaster, and its survivors.
“Naturally, our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragedy, who have had to relive some very painful memories during this trial.
“The judge has ruled the defendants did not have a legal obligation to ensure the information they provided to the Taylor Inquiry was full and frank and we accept that.
"But for many, not least those most personally affected, serious questions must remain over the public and moral duty of police in helping authorities to understand and prevent a further disaster like Hillsborough.
“The IOPC has undertaken the largest independent investigation into police misconduct and alleged criminality ever carried out in England and Wales and the first time individuals have appeared in court as a result of police actions after the disaster.
“We will now focus on finalising our report which will cover the findings of more than 160 individual investigations into the actions of the police following the disaster – a significant body of work given events took place such a long time ago.
“We are committed to answering many of the questions that still remain about police actions before, during and after the disaster, and we will continue to keep bereaved families, survivors and other affected groups informed about our findings.”