The trial of two retired police officers and a solicitor charged with perverting the course of justice after the Hillsborough disaster has collapsed.
96 men, women and children were killed in the disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's ground at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989.
Mr Justice William Davis ruled that there was no case for defendants Donald Denton, Alan Foster and Peter Metcalf to answer.
Denton, 83, a then Chief Superintendent with South Yorkshire police, former DCI Foster, 74, and the force's former solicitor, Metcalf, 72, were charged in 2017 by the UK's Crown Prosecution Service with two counts each of perverting the course of justice.
It was alleged that the officers and solicitor were involved in the process of amending statements to minimize the blame levelled at South Yorkshire police following the disaster.
Justice Davis said there was no case to answer because altered police statements were prepared for the public inquiry into the disaster by Lord Justice Taylor.
The acquittals bring to an end over three decades of legal proceedings by the families of those killed.
A jury ruled in 2016 that the 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed, but there has not been a single criminal conviction issued to anyone from the South Yorkshire police in the 32 years since the tragedy.
The officer in command back in 1989, former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, was acquitted of manslaughter in 2019. Sir Norman Bettison, a former South Yorkshire police chief inspector, had misconduct charges against him dropped in 2018.
Justice Davis said: “I repeat my observation about the anxiety and distress being felt by the families of those affected by the Hillsborough disaster.
“These proceedings have been very drawn-out following a lengthy trial process involving the match commander.
“I know the strength of feeling there was after his acquittal. I am aware that these proceedings also have been observed with interest.
“However, whatever the anxiety and distress, I have to determine whether there is evidence to support the particular criminal offence with which these defendants have been charged.
“In concluding that there is not, that is all I do.”
Margaret Aspinall, the last chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, has criticised the outcome of the trial.
“It’s the cover-up of the cover-up of the cover-up,” she said.
“Our loved ones went to a football match and were killed, then they and the survivors were branded hooligans, and we’ve been put through a 32-year legal nightmare looking for the truth and accountability. Now they’re saying the police were allowed to change statements and cover up at Taylor. The legal system in this country really has to change.”