Solicitor may face investigation over Hillsborough cover-up

 

The solicitor who was integral to the process in which juniors police officers' Hillsborough statements were altered may be investigated by his profession's regulatory body.

Peter Metcalf, a former Hammond Suddards partner, was found by the Hillsborough Independent Panel to have helped drive through the "review and alteration" process overseen by a senior South Yorkshire Police (SYP) officer, Chief Superintendent Donald Denton, which saw 164 statements substantially altered and comments unfavourable to the force removed or altered in 116.

Though he has left Hammond Suddards, Mr Metcalf is still registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) as a practising solicitor, operating as a consultant for his own firm, PC Metcalf.

His presence on the SRA roll would enable the Authority to investigate whether he failed in his professional obligation to uphold the law and work in the interests of justice in the aftermath of 1989 tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans died. The SRA has indicated it is aware of references to Mr Metcalf in the Panel report and is considering them. The "review and alteration" system was first uncovered by Professor Phil Scraton, principal author of last week's report.

Documents published by the Panel show that Mr Metcalf was tasked to supply the names of two Liverpool fans whose statements provided the force with potential to shift the blame for the tragedy from themselves on to Sheffield Wednesday FC stewards.

Action points from the SYP meeting which assigned the solicitor this task state that "if it can be shown that many stewards were involved, then the club through their agents [stewards] should have known of this… which increases their liability". Mr Metcalf could not be contacted last night.

Documents published by the Panel also reveal that the South Yorkshire force contemplated sending Sheffield Wednesday a bill to foot the cost of the "service" they provided on the day of the disaster. Four days after the tragedy, at a meeting of senior police officers, legal and insurance representatives, Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Anderson – who was also involved in "review and alteration" – raised the "extremely delicate" issue of payment to the force.

"We did still provide a service," he states. Deputy Chief Constable Peter Hayes supports him, stating that officers had been on duty since 10am – "long before" the tragedy unfolded.

Documents from the archive also reveal that Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, had no appetite for Lord Justice Stuart-Smith's review of the evidence ordered by his Home Secretary, Jack Straw. Mr Blair scribbled, "Why? What's the point?" across a briefing memo from a civil servant telling him about the review.

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