Police watchdog to investigate claims Hillsborough inquest PR asked to spin against fans

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The police watchdog has launched an investigation after a former South Yorkshire Police (SYP) press officer said she was instructed to spin news during the Hillsborough inquests.

Former local newspaper journalist Hayley Court, who was headhunted to work as a £50,000-a-year specialist press officer for the Hillsborough inquests, says she was asked to emphasise elements of evidence that were positive for the police.

She reportedly said this included poor behaviour by Liverpool fans at the 1989 stadium disaster.

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.

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.”

Court claimed she was given an “impossible job” that 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.”

According to Court she was told to “get the media together and tell them what to write” while “perpetuating” allegations about fans’ behaviour on the day.

South Yorkshire Police has said her claims about unethical practice were not substantiated when she left the force through its grievance procedure.

In an earlier statement SYP said it wanted to discussCourt’s claims with her.

A 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.

Picture: BBC.

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