Thursday 21 September 2017

Hillsborough police face probe

James Cusick

THE biggest ever inquiry into police action in the UK will investigate the conduct of officers over the Hillsborough disaster.

It has emerged that criminal prosecutions including charges of manslaughter could be brought against serving and retired police involved in the tragedy after the independent police watchdog yesterday launched its biggest-ever investigation to follow up on new evidence contained in last month's devastating report.

Launching the investigation, Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the Independent Police Complains Commission (IPCC), said the large number of current and former police officers who would now be investigated included Norman Bettison, currently West Yorkshire's Chief Constable.

The investigation will look into events before, during and after April 15, 1989, when 96 people died and 760 were injured in overcrowding at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield.

Mr Norman was accused in the Hillsborough Independent Panel report of having a lead role in deflecting blame from the police after the tragedy. The report showed he helped prepare a video presenting the police's version of events to MPs. He was accused by the Labour MP Maria Eagle of being part of a "black ops" unit.

The IPCC said it would also investigate a second complaint from the West Yorkshire Police Authority that Mr Norman had tried to influence it over its referral.

Last month's report estimated that of the 96 who had died, 41 had the "potential to survive" if an emergency plan had been correctly put in place. It also revealed that 164 police statements had been altered -- 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about the police's handling of the match and the disaster.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said yesterday that he would be reviewing all material gathered in the 395-page Hillsborough Panel report to decide whether new charges can be brought.

Charges that could be brought against officers, if sufficient evidence emerges, include manslaughter, perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Two forces will be the focus of the IPCC inquiry: South Yorkshire, whose officers were in charge of policing the Sheffield stadium, and West Midlands, which later carried out the formal investigation.

Ms Glass said it would take several months to decide what the full extent of the inquiry would be. Of the officers who were on duty at Hillsborough in 1989, 200 are still serving.

Liverpool FC said that the scale of the investigation was "another significant step forward in the campaign for justice for Hillsborough families and survivors". (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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