Police federation secretary denies being Hillsborough chief’s ‘mouthpiece’

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Video: South Yorkshire Police Federation secretary talked of ‘mob’ of fans in Hillsborough TV interview

Paul Middup was giving evidence for the second day at the new inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool FC fans who died during at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground in 1989.

Paul Middup arrives at the Hillsborough inquests in Warrington

Paul Middup arrives at the Hillsborough inquests in Warrington

Mr Middup spoke to the media following the fatal crush and said drunk, ticketless Liverpool fans who arrived late for the game had caused the crush.

He was asked about minutes of a Police Federation meeting which was attended by Chief Constable Peter Wright and held four days after the disaster.

The minutes said: “Mr Wright admitted he would have liked to have been able to make the comments which Mr Middup had made.”

Mark George QC, representing 22 of the families, said: “You are the chief constable’s mouthpiece, Mr Middup, aren’t you?”

To which Mr Middup replied: “No I am most certainly not, and I resent that remark.”

Mr George asked: “Dancing to his tune?”

Mr Middup said: “That’s just the way you want to make it out. It wasn’t that way.”

He added: “I spoke only for the Police Federation.”

Today the court was shown a TV interview of Mr Middup, filmed after the disaster, in which he described a ‘mob’ of fans.

He said his members were only blaming some of the Liverpool fans, not all of them and denied taking up the cause of blaming drunken, ticketless fans ‘with enthusiasm’.

Mr Middup told Mr George: “I think you’re attacking me aggressively and unnecessarily and I don’t think you’re being fair with the way you’re speaking to me.”

Mr George the asked if Mr Middup had been thinking of the bereaved families when gave his media interviews.

He said: “When you spoke in those terms on the TV that day, did you consider how many of the Liverpool families had been traumatised by the events of that day?”

Mr Middup replied: “No, well I wasn’t, other people were looking after the Liverpool families and other people from that side.

Mr George added: “Did it occur to you that what you were doing, Mr Middup, in spreading this gossip doubled the agony for the families?

“It was bad enough to lose a family member and now to find the police blaming the fans and denigrating people from Liverpool who had gone to this match.”

Mr Middup said: “They were blaming some of the fans not all of them.”

Mr Middup said he only found out on Thursday that some of the fans who went through exit gate C when it was opened by the police before kick off had died.

Michael Mansfield QC, representing 75 of the bereaved families, said: “Of the 75 families, 22 at the moment, is the latest count we can make, of their family relatives went through gate C once it was opened.

“They weren’t drunk, they weren’t ticketless, they weren’t part of a marauding mob and they weren’t late when they turned up.”

Mr George told the court seven of the 22 families he represented had relatives who died after entering through exit gate C.

The jury was also shown minutes of a meeting between MP Michael Shersby, the parliamentary consultant for the Police Federation, and the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, in September 1989, after Lord Justice Taylor’s interim report into the disaster was published.

A note of the meeting said: “The federation of South Yorkshire was also concerned at the decision of the force solicitor to eliminate some material from the police evidence to the inquiry.

“The evidence in question turned on emotional matters such as the alleged theft of items which had fallen from the victims pockets and instances of those in the ground pouring urine on the police.”

Minutes of a meeting held in October of that year and attended by Mr Shersby, Mr Middup, and a number of senior officers from the force were also shown.

The meeting, also attended by Norman Bettison, who later went on to become chief constable of Merseyside, included officers’ descriptions of what happened on the day.

The minutes recorded Mr Shersby as saying: “We have listened to 50 police officers. I am very unhappy and disturbed about what I have heard, not only about the events you had to deal with but that so many police officers feel so strongly about the inquiry which has been set up by parliament.

“It is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs and you have my assurance that I will remedy it.”

Jonathan Hough, counsel to the inquests, said: “What would you say to the suggestion that the federation was attempting to put forward a hostile picture of Liverpool fans, both through Mr Shersby in Parliament and through this publication?”

Mr Middup says: “I think what the federation was trying to do was to put some balance into it.”

He adds: “They wanted some rebalancing of it, not to try and put all them blame on those football supporters, but for some of it to go that way, because it was sort of being obliterated, as if it didn’t happen, and that’s just not how it was, because it did happen, and so they wanted that putting forward.

The hearing continues.

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