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Hillsborough inquests: Inspectors 'invited to review evidence'

Fans escaping pens during Hillsborough disaster Image copyright Hillsborough inquests

A former chief constable was involved in asking police officers to review and change evidence they had given about the Hillsborough disaster, an inquest jury has heard.

Sir Norman Bettison worked for South Yorkshire Police at the time.

He ordered a colleague to interview officers to see if they would issue additional statements clarifying evidence they gave to a public inquiry.

None of the officers gave new statements.

New inquests are being held over the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans fatally crushed at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium in April 1989.


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The court has already heard how a South Yorkshire Police lawyer suggested four inspectors "review" the evidence they gave at the original public inquiry into the disaster, overseen by Lord Justice Taylor.

Peter Metcalf wrote to Deputy Chief Constable Peter Hayes on 19 July 1990 to ask the officers to consider who was "responsible" for monitoring pens at the 1989 disaster.

In his letter he asked if the officers could give additional statements "explaining the purport of their evidence" if they believed the transcript of their evidence did not "give the true flavour of what they meant to say" about the responsibility for monitoring the pens.

He included a draft statement the officers were to consider signing.

It invited them to say the "transcript [of their evidence to the Taylor Inquiry] gives a misleading impression of what I understand to have been the position in relation to the control of numbers entering individual pens".

But Mr Metcalf's letter added: "I am sure I do not need to emphasise that there is no point in any officer putting forward evidence which he cannot honestly sustain in cross examination.

"Only if the officers consider that the transcript does not fairly state their true position is any further statement needed."

'No new statement'

The jury saw how Supt Bettison, who later become chief constable of Merseyside Police and West Yorkshire Police, had ordered Det Insp John Cleverley to interview the officers, inviting them to review and change their evidence.

Mr Bettison faxed Mr Metcalf's letter and draft statement to Det Insp Cleverley on 24 July, 1990.

The jury was shown an internal police "action note" which said Supt Bettison had "allocated" the task of interviewing the four officers to Det Insp Cleverley.

Under the title "nature of action", the note said: "Interview following officers and ask them to re-examine the transcript of their evidence to Taylor Inquiry as the subject of police 'monitoring' of the pens on West Terrace.

"Obtain further statement if [underlined] they agree that wrong impression has been given in their original evidence."

The jury heard how the note recorded that, on 8 August 1990, Det Insp Cleverley had interviewed Insp Stephen Sewell.

It said: "Insp Sewell interviewed. He does not wish to modify his previous evidence at this point."

Mr Sewell retired from the police in 1994 and then worked for Mr Metcalf's law firm, Hammond Suddards.

Asked if he remembered the interview with Det Insp Cleverley, Mr Sewell told the inquests: "I know Inspector Cleverley, but I have no recollection of this interview, no. I have no recollection of it."

He said he knew Mr Bettison but that he never spoke to him about the matter.

The inquests, held in Warrington, Cheshire, continue.

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