Lawyers for one of the defendants in the collapsed Hillsborough criminal case have rejected accusations that they 'manipulated the system' to secure a result.
Mr Justice Williams Davis ruled earlier this week that there was no case to answer against retired solicitor Peter Metcalf and former police officers Alan Foster and Donald Denton over the handling of police statements following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster at which 96 Liverpool supporters died.
London firm Edward Fail Bradshaw & Waterson, which represented Foster, issued a statement following the acquittal to extend sympathies to the Hillsborough families and condemn the decision to prosecute their client.
Unusually, the firm put out a further statement yesterday addressing some of the criticism that has been made of the defence lawyers since the Davis ruling.
The firm said the Taylor Inquiry was not new to the Crown Prosecution Service and yet it persisted to prosecute the case focusing on it. While commentators have described the discharge argument as a ‘technical defence’, the lawyers pointed out that any amendments to officers’ statement did not distort or hide the true facts, so the allegations were unfounded even if there had been a case to answer.
The firm added: ‘This was not “clever lawyers” finding “loopholes” as described by many on social media who have simply read the media reports and comments of politicians who have not read the ruling in full. This was a failure by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (formerly IPPC) to properly investigate, charge and prosecute criminal allegations.
‘Pressure had obviously been applied by partisan groups and politicians to encourage charges being brought. This generated significant political heat and very little legal light.’
The CPS has insisted it was right to bring the case and for a court to hear the evidence of what happened in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.
Sue Hemming, director of legal services at the CPS, said: ‘What has been heard here in this court will have been surprising to many. That a publicly funded authority can lawfully withhold information from a public inquiry charged with finding out why 96 people died at a football match, in order to ensure that it never happened again - or that a solicitor can advise such a withholding, without sanction of any sort, may be a matter which should be subject to scrutiny.’
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, called for legislation to close what he called a 'loophole' in the law. 'There needs to be a duty of candour in law for public officials, there needs to be parity of legal funding at inquests between the state and bereaved families.'