Lawyer says Hillsborough comments were ‘taken out of context’

A lawyer who was criticised for claiming Liverpool fans caused a “riot” ahead of the Hillsborough disaster has said his comments were “taken out of context”.

Jonathan Goldberg QC spoke to Adrian Chiles on BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday after his client Peter Metcalf, who was a solicitor for South Yorkshire Police in 1989, was cleared of perverting the course of justice following the disaster.

Chiles later apologised for failing to challenge the barrister on “evil nonsense”.

In a statement published on his website on Thursday, Mr Goldberg said his remarks had been “taken out of context and badly misunderstood”.

During the interview with Chiles, Mr Goldberg said: “My client was accused of covering up criticism of the police.

“What he in fact did was cut out criticism of the Liverpool fans, whose behaviour was perfectly appalling on the day, causing a riot that led to the gate having to be opened, that unfortunately let the people in and crushed to death the innocents as they were – complete innocents – who were at the front of the pens, who had arrived early and were not drunk and were behaving perfectly well.”

In his statement, he said he had wanted to make the point that Mr Metcalf advised criticisms of the fans were cut from police statements.

He said: “I did not realise in yesterday’s unscripted and live conversation with Mr Chiles that I had not made this point clear. Mr Chiles did not intervene. He says today he is sorry he did not. If he had, I would have clarified these matters right away.

Adrian Chiles
Adrian Chiles apologised for failing to challenge the barrister (Nick Potts/PA)

“I have received many emails and messages. I have tried to reply courteously to all the courteous ones (many were not). Evidently my words caused distress, for which I do sincerely apologise.

“However I hope people will agree that free speech is not heresy because it may differ from another person’s opinion. My client was vindicated on Wednesday let us not forget, from a cloud which blighted his life too over decades.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester and Hillsborough campaigner Andy Burnham said on Wednesday he would consider whether further action could be taken with professional regulatory bodies following Mr Goldberg’s comments.

He said: “There is no evidence of any riot outside that ground and the fact somebody who is a Queen’s Counsel should go on the media and make those statements, they are inaccurate statements.

“They are intended to smear the supporters of this football club all over again, they are intended to smear the people of this city all over again.”

Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne said he and 22 other MPs had written to BBC director-general Tim Davie to say the broadcaster had failed to ensure its editorial guidelines were met by allowing the statement to go unchallenged.

In the letter, which the Labour politician posted on Twitter and which was signed by 22 other MPs, he said: “We urge you to consider the impact of this on the families and survivors and the wider community on what was an already incredibly difficult day.”

In 2016, a jury at inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool supporters concluded the behaviour of fans did not cause or contribute to the dangerous situation which built up outside the ground on April 15 1989.