Hillsborough inquests: Former officer admits facts 'removed'

Hillsborough disaster Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption Ninety-six football fans died as a result of the crush at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield

A former police chief who oversaw the vetting of officers' statements after the Hillsborough disaster has admitted some facts were removed.

Retired Ch Supt Donald Denton told the new inquests he could see "no reason" why some accounts were changed.

However he denied there was a deliberate attempt to withhold officers' accounts from the original public inquiry in 1989-90.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died due to a crush at the match on 15 April 1989.

More than 600 police statements were internally reviewed by South Yorkshire Police (SYP), of which about 60 were amended between May 1989 and May 1990, the court heard.

The jury was shown how statements which contained comment on police leadership, lack of manpower and poor communications were altered.

'Crossed out'

Mr Denton, who had overall responsibility for the vetting of statements, told the inquests that removing criticism of senior officers was justified because it was "very largely opinion", whereas criticism of fans was seen as "fact".

In one statement, a sergeant at Hillsborough recalled that, in previous years, a group of police officers was stationed at a tunnel into the central pens at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium.

This part of his statement was crossed out and did not appear in later versions.

Mr Denton, who has now retired from SYP, said: "I can't see any reason why this should have been taken out at all. That should have been left in."

He agreed it was "not satisfactory" that a reference to police radio problems, a year before the disaster, was also removed from another officer's statement.

"Because of the difficulties that were being experienced with the communications system there on the day [in 1989], I would have thought that should remain in," he added.

'Nothing deliberate'

Mr Denton told the jury that SYP's legal advisors suggested the removal of comment, opinion and hearsay from officers' statements, even though it was allowed in the original Taylor public inquiry between 1989 and 1990.

But he admitted he was wrong to tell a previous inquiry all statement changes were suggested by lawyers and none by police.

Pete Weatherby QC, a barrister for 22 bereaved families, put it to him that key evidence about a police tactic to close the tunnel to the Leppings Lane terrace, once the central pens were full, was removed from officers' statements.

He said there was a "train of evidence for this critical matter that is not provided to the Taylor inquiry by South Yorkshire Police".

Mr Denton replied: "I don't accept the construction you're putting on it, sir. It may obviously have been an error somewhere along the line but there was definitely nothing deliberate in withholding statements."

The inquests in Warrington, Cheshire, continue.

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