Police watchdog to investigate South Yorkshire Police 'spin' allegation

A scene from the Hillsborough disaster
A scene from the Hillsborough disaster

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to investigate claims that a South Yorkshire Police press officer was asked to spin the news during the Hillsborough disaster inquests.

Hayley Court, who was headhunted to work as a £50,000-a-year press officer for South Yorkshire Police during the Hillsborough inquests, spoke out at the end of proceedings to claim she was asked to emphasise elements of evidence that were positive for South Yorkshire Police.

She claimed that this included emphasising evidence of alleged poor behaviour by Liverpool fans at the 1989 stadium disaster, which led to the loss of 96 lives.

A jury found the victims of the tragedy were unlawfully killed and exonerated the fans of any wrongdoing.

South Yorkshire Police and several former officers now face the prospect of criminal action over the deaths after the inquests ruled that the policing of the match 'caused or contributed to' the disaster.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Court she was told to 'get the media together and tell them what to write' while 'perpetuating' allegations about fans' behaviour on the day.

She said she felt the job was 'wholly unethical'.

"It seemed to me to be more about how we could share the blame," she said.

"If South Yorkshire Police was going to be found partly responsible for what happened then all the other interested parties should be found partly responsible as well.

"If that meant perpetuating comments about fans being drunk, if that meant perpetuating comments about fans forcing gates then that was how they were going to do it."

South Yorkshire Police has said her claims were not substantiated.

She no longer works for the force but former bosses have offered to meet her to discuss her claims again.

A spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission said: "Following an assessment of the available evidence, the IPCC has decided to conduct an independent investigation into this matter."

In an earlier statement a South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "Some of the issues raised have been considered before through the force's grievance procedure.

"Specifically in relation to the concerns raised about suggested unethical practices, but these were not substantiated at the time."