LONDON — A British judge on Wednesday ended the trial of two former police officers and an ex-lawyer on charges of perverting the course of justice in connection with the 1989 Hillsborough soccer stadium disaster that saw 96 Liverpool fans die.
After four weeks of evidence, Judge William Davis told jurors in Salford, northwest England, he agreed with lawyers for the defendants that there was no case they could properly consider.
“Whatever the anxiety and distress, I have to determine whether there is evidence to support the particular criminal offense with which these defendants have been charged,” the judge said. “In concluding that there is not, that is all I do.”
Families have waged a decades-long quest to seek justice for their loved ones who died on April 15, 1989, during a crush at a soccer match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The deaths initially were ruled accidental — a ruling overturned in 2012 after a new, wide-ranging inquiry.
Donald Denton, an 83-year-old retired chief superintendent at West Yorkshire Police, former detective chief inspector Alan Foster, 74, and former solicitor Peter Metcalf, 71, had each been charged with acting to pervert the course of justice. They were accused of amending police officers’ statements following the disaster in an attempt to minimize the blame that would be heaped on the police force.
Sue Hemming, the director of legal services at the Crown Prosecution Service said it was “right to bring this case and for a court to hear the evidence of what happened in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.”
The ruling was met with dismay from families as well as campaigners who work on behalf of the bereaved.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who has been heavily involved in the campaign for justice for Hillsborough victims, slammed the court decision a “disgrace and so disrespectful to the families.”
“Why was it not left to the jury to decide? From what I have witnessed first-hand over the last four years, I can only conclude that the scales of justice in this country are weighed heavily against ordinary people,” Burnham said.