The Hillsborough inquests commenced on March 31, 2014 and are the subject of reporting restrictions that have been imposed by the Attorney General's office. Liverpool Football Club is respectful of these restrictions and will therefore only be making available updates from other media channels for the duration of the inquest.
The report below - and the witness testimony contained within it - does not necessarily reflect the views of Liverpool FC. Please be aware that the reports on these pages will contain evidence about the day of the disaster which may be distressing.
To view archive reports from each day of the inquest hearings, click here.
Courtesy of the Liverpool Echo - March 21
The Hillsborough inquests coroner told the jury to ask whether police statements were changed to “divert blame”.
In his 22nd day of summing up, Sir John Goldring began reminding the court of the evidence gathering following the disaster on April 15, 1989, in which 96 people died.
He told the jury that during this topic he would focus on evidence about officers’ reports and statements and South Yorkshire Police’s approach to the Taylor Inquiry into the disaster and, to a limited degree, the previous inquests.
He said: “First, many witnesses including police officers, were referred to written accounts they produced at the time after the disaster.
“Some of those were subject to review and amendment.
“You need to know about the amendment process and what changes were made to certain officers’ statements to know which was the most complete and reliable early account of that officer.
“Second, it may affect your view of an officer and his evidence if his account was changed, especially if you thought he had agreed to the changes.
“Third, you will no doubt form your view as to the reasons why those involved in the processes of gathering and amending evidence acted as they did.
“In broad terms, those representing the families put to them that the senior management of South Yorkshire Police, including Chief Constable (Peter) Wright and his deputy, Mr (Peter) Hayes, were seeking to manipulate the evidence and present a false narrative of the disaster.”
He told the court, in Birchwood Park, Warrington, that officers who had given evidence had denied that.
He said: “It will be for you to take your own view, taking into account all the evidence.
“If you conclude that officers were behaving properly on legal advice, even if mistakes were made, the evidence gathering process may not help you to decide what happened on the day of the disaster.
“If, however, you conclude that the senior management of South Yorkshire Police, by which I mean Mr Wright and the other most senior officers, decided to orchestrate a process of suppressing or substantively altering evidence in a consistent way, you would then want to consider why they did so.
“Was it to present an account which they believe was correct or was it to divert blame which they recognised must fall on the police because of their knowledge of the disaster and all the evidence and accounts they were receiving?”
Sir John also reminded the jury that a number of officers did not write up entries in their pocketbooks after the disaster.
He said: “Some recall having been told not to.
“We have no positive evidence of a directive not to write up such entries, apart from Mr (Graham) McKay’s instruction to a small number of officers investigating events, subsequently approved by the chief constable.
“As you will recall, it was suggested by counsel for the families to a number of officers that notes in pocketbooks would provide an audit trail; that if there was an instruction not to complete entries, it suggested a desire, this was the suggestion, to avoid having an auditable record.”
The coroner also summed up evidence of Paul Middup, the Police Federation secretary in South Yorkshire.
He was quoted in an article published in the Daily Mail on April 18, 1989, saying: “I am sick of hearing how good the crowd were.
“Just because they weren’t tearing each other’s throats out doesn’t mean they were well behaved.”
He went on to say: “They opened the gate a little way and tried to check tickets as fans went through, but the rush became a stampede as the others without tickets saw their chance and piled in.”
He also gave a TV interview in which he was highly critical of Liverpool fans.
Sir John said counsel to the inquests Jonathan Hough QC had asked Mr Middup whether it occurred to him now that it was perhaps unwise to say the police were not to blame when he did not know very much about the decisions taken by senior officers.
The coroner said: “He said he meant his people were not to blame. He was speaking on behalf of the rank and file.”
Notes of a Police Federation meeting later that month said: “Mr Middup stated the chief constable had said the truth could not come from him but had given the secretary a totally free hand and supported him.”
Click here for a full transcript from March 21.