Ex-South Yorkshire Police officers and lawyer cleared of perverting course of justice over Hillsborough
TWO ex-cops and a solicitor have been cleared of perverting the course of justice following the Hillsborough disaster after the trial collapsed.
Former chief superintendent Donald Denton, 83, retired detective chief inspector Alan Foster, 74, and Peter Metcalf, 71, were charged in 2017.
It followed a probe by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into allegations of a cover-up by police following the tragedy.
They were accused of two counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.
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 people died.
After four weeks of evidence, lawyers for the defendants applied to have the case against them dismissed.
In a ruling handed down at the Nightingale court at the Lowry theatre in Salford on Wednesday, judge Mr Justice William Davis said the amended statements were intended for a public inquiry into safety at sports grounds led by Lord Justice Taylor, but that was not a course of public justice.
The jury was directed to return not guilty verdicts for each of the six counts on the indictment.
In the ruling, he said: "I repeat my observation about the anxiety and distress being felt by the families of those affected by the Hillsborough disaster.
"These proceedings have been very drawn-out following a lengthy trial process involving the match commander.
"I know the strength of feeling there was after his acquittal. I am aware that these proceedings also have been observed with interest.
"However, whatever the anxiety and distress, I have to determine whether there is evidence to support the particular criminal offence with which these defendants have been charged.
"In concluding that there is not, that is all I do."
'BURIED WITH A LIE'
The trial had heard statements were amended to remove criticism of the force.
Before the jury was called into court, Sarah Whitehouse QC, prosecuting, said the prosecution would not seek leave to appeal the judge's decision.
She said there had always been a "swirl of rumour" around a cover-up following the disaster.
Ms Whitehouse added: "This trial has been the first and last time evidence in relation to that has been heard."
Christine Burke, whose father Henry died in the disaster, also addressed the judge before the jury came into court.
She said: "I have got to live the rest of my life knowing my father was buried with a lie."
The IOPC investigation was launched in 2012.
Sir Norman Bettison, a chief inspector in 1989 who went on to become chief constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire, was charged with misconduct in a public office as part of the investigation but the charges against were dropped in August 2018.
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.
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