Senior officers and lawyers at South Yorkshire Police amended police accounts of the Hillsborough disaster to remove comments criticising police leadership or abusive remarks about fans, an inquest has heard.
Original inquests recorded verdicts of “accidental death” after 96 Liverpool fans died at the Sheffield stadium in 1989
But for 23 years courageous families of the dead campaigned for an investigation into what happened, suspecting a police cover-up.
When an independent public inquiry revealed in 2012 that police statements had been doctored the verdicts were quashed and fresh inquests were ordered.
At a new inquest this week coroner Lord Justice Goldring said that senior ranks and lawyers at South Yorkshire Police reviewed all self-taken statements by officers present at the disaster and amended some of them before forwarding them to West Midlands Police, who investigated the tragedy.
“The amendments vary in type and significance,” said Lord Goldring.
“A number involved the removal of comments criticising the police leadership on the day of the disaster.
“Others were of deletions of passages denouncing poor and defective radio communications.
“A small number were amended to remove comments which were critical or even abusive of the fans at the match.”
The coroner said jurors would have to consider whether the amendments affected their view of the “reliability” of early written statements given by the officers.
He added that they would have to ask why they were amended – if they were “innocent” alterations or “part of a policy of blaming fans in order to deflect criticism from the police.”
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster the media – in particular the tabloid press – police and politicians blamed the fans themselves for what happened.
The Sun newspaper, which was particularly virulent, is still banned in many Liverpool newsagents.
An investigation into the disaster is also being carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Only the determination of the bereaved families has led to the truth finally becoming uncovered.
Peter Lazenby Via Morning Star.