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Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Hillsborough: Behind the police lines
Floral tributes placed outside the Hillsborough stadium
Floral tributes for those who died
By the BBC's Mike McKay

The full story of the police's role at Hillsborough, as seen through the eyes of ordinary PCs, was not revealed by the Leeds trial.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, every officer on duty at the semi-final was instructed by the South Yorkshire force to write out their own accounts of what happened.

A number of officers refused to sign the vetted statement

Mike McKay

But when many officers' statements reached the Taylor Inquiry and later, the Director of Public Prosecutions, they had been altered, edited or amended.

The South Yorkshire force maintained that, on advice from their solicitors, hundreds of original police statements were vetted purely for expressions of emotion or opinion - not fact.

There is no suggestion the process wasn't perfectly legal.

But the Hillsborough families' lawyers say that 183 police statements may have been altered or edited - and many of the deletions were criticisms by constables of poor communication, lack of leadership and comparison with crowd control tactics in previous years.

Officers angry

A number of officers refused to sign the vetted statements -- and at least one contacted recently by the BBC was still angry.
Football fans flood onto the pitch
Supporters flood onto the football pitch

"I assume it was some sort of cover-up so as not to apportion blame to senior officers," says former traffic officer Norman Lewis.

He was asked to delete from his original statement his comment that "at no time was I instructed by a supervising officer what to do."

Mr Lewis, now retired, said: "They asked me a couple of times to sign it and when I was adamant, they didn't pursue it any further."

He now says there ought to be an inquiry into the process and that he thinks it was an "improper" use of original evidence.

"If it's been asked of me - and it's been asked of others - it's a cover-up," said Mr Lewis.

Evidence disclosed

When, in 1997, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith re-examined the evidence of policing at Hillsborough he decided it still didn't warrant a criminal prosecution.

That was when the victims' families decided to launch their own prosecution.
 Lord Justice Stuart-Smith
Lord Justice Stuart-Smith: Re-examined evidence

It was also the time they began to realise how much police evidence had not been disclosed, said Ann Adlington, solicitor for the families.

She and the families' counsel, barrister Alun Jones, say it was this body of undisclosed evidence which convinced them more than anything to pursue the case.

"When the West Midlands police, the investigating force, submitted a criminal report in April 1990, to the Director of Public Prosecutions, it contained only 12% of the statements taken, "said Ms Arlington.

"And virtually all of the police statements were vetted versions."

She says the Hillsborough saga has exposed one other weakness in procedures - the investigation of one police force by another.

The South Yorkshire force called in the West Midlands police immediately after Hillsborough to produce evidence, first for the Taylor Inquiry and later for the DPP and the Coroner.

The result was that the South Yorkshire force had access to a huge part of the evidence- and to this day is in effect the keeper of the archive of evidence about its own role in the Hillsborough tragedy.

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