One former chief inspector who was part of the Hillsborough inquiry assured an officer nothing “sinister” happened when he complained his statement had been changed, a court has heard.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Ross, who worked in the West Midlands Police team tasked with investigating the 1989 FA Cup semi-final disaster, gave evidence at Nightingale Court at the Lowry Theatre in Salford on Monday.
Court heard that former South Yorkshire Police Chief Superintendent Donald Denton, 83, Alan Foster, 74, a retired detective chief inspector, and Peter Metcalf, 71, a former solicitor, reviewed and amended statements made by police officers before they were sent to West Midlands officials.
The tribunal was shown a memo Mr Ross sent to then West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Mervyn Jones on May 23, 1989.
In it he said he had been contacted by an officer who complained that a “material detail” in his statement had been changed and he would refuse to sign it.
In that memo, Mr. Ross said, “I explained to him the accepted procedure between the judicial inquiry and the chief constables involved, i.e., South Yorkshire and West Midlands, and that the statements would be reviewed by the South Yorkshire Police legal department to try to remove from the memo any comments made with full emotion after the incident that were or might be considered embarrassing or prejudicial to South Yorkshire Police in general and individual officers in particular.”
Cllr Ross stated on the record that the officer found this “unacceptable” and said he and other officers were very “disappointed”.
He told the court, “My understanding at the time was that the role of the South Yorkshire Police legal department was to get these recollections and remove the hearsay and put them into Criminal Justice Act statements and then they would be usable.
“That’s what I was trying to reassure him, that nothing bad happened in my opinion, but that the memories were made fit for purpose.”
Mr Ross said the type of comments that would be removed included officers saying things like “where are the white shirts?” referring to those with the rank of inspector and above.
The court heard that following Mr Ross’s memo, Mr Jones wrote to South Yorkshire’s chief constable, Peter Wright, saying: “I thought I would discreetly inform you that we have received two inquiries from various sources suggesting that certain omissions have been made in officers’ recollections.”
In addition to the call from Mr. Ross, he also mentioned a call from a Sheffield Star journalist who raised a similar issue.
Jurors learned that Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Anderson later wrote a circular to South Yorkshire Police officers based on Metcalf’s evidence, saying the recollections had been edited to make them suitable as statements of fact.
Ninety-six men, women and children died in the crowd in the dressing rooms during the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.
Denton, of Sheffield, Foster, of Harrogate, and Metcalf, of Ilkley, each deny two counts of committing acts intended to affect the course of justice.