Met police chief cleared of ‘deliberate lies’ on Hillsborough tragedy

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
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THE police watchdog has found no evidence Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe deliberately lied to journalists about information he provided to a Hillsborough inquiry in 1990.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigated Sir Bernard after allegations made by a relative of a Hillsborough victim, but said the investigation concluded he had no case to answer for misconduct.

Paul Spearritt, whose 14-year-old brother Adam died in the disaster on April 15 1989, had alleged the police chief had been dishonest when he told journalists in 2012 and 2013, through his press office, that he had given a witness statement about his involvement in the disaster to the Lord Justice Taylor inquiry, which was set up in its aftermath.

The IPCC investigation found Sir Bernard, who was a South Yorkshire Police inspector at the time, provided a brief verbal description of his involvement in the aftermath to a South Yorkshire Police officer in May 1990.

The account was documented and passed to West Midlands Police, the force conducting the criminal investigation into the disaster, which killed 96 Liverpool fans.

The IPCC said it obtained witness evidence which showed the note was mistakenly assumed to be a formal “statement” by Metropolitan Police Service press office staff and Sir Bernard himself.

The watchdog found a written instruction on the West Midlands Police investigation database asking for Sir Bernard to be contacted was also misinterpreted and led to an assumption Sir Bernard later declined to make a formal statement.

IPCC deputy chair Rachel Cerfontyne said: “The investigation found no evidence that Sir Bernard deliberately attempted to mislead.

“The evidence supports that he acted quickly to rectify this error after it had come to light, by issuing a further public statement setting out what had happened.”

The IPCC also received a second complaint from Mr Spearritt which alleged that Sir Bernard incorrectly identified Adam as being alive, after reading his name from a list at the Hillsborough Boys’ Club, where families were sent to wait for news of their loved ones.

An IPCC spokeswoman said following initial inquiries, Mr Spearritt was now satisfied that Sir Bernard was not the officer who read the list.

She said Sir Bernard, who on duty in the Boys’ Club, had provided a witness account to assist with the inquiries.