IPCC launch independent investigation into Hillsborough

Hillsborough tributes Photo: PA

Statement by Deborah Glass, Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission:

One month ago the Hillsborough Independent Panel delivered a report that gave the families of those who died, those that were injured and those who were traumatised in the terrible events of 15 April 1989, the details they had sought for 23 years.

The report revealed extremely serious and troubling issues for the police. Its contents provoked a demand for those responsible for the actions revealed in the report to be held to account.

We have learned details of the run-up to the disaster including the unheeded warnings from previous incidents, the disaster itself, and its aftermath, including what appear to be attempts to distort the truth.

These findings are a testament to the tenacity of the Hillsborough families' long campaign for truth and justice. Their dedication to the memory of those they loved – and the support of the people of Merseyside – has been humbling.

But 23 years was far too long to wait. It has been a generation of distress and anger. And the picture is not yet complete.

It is now for the Independent Police Complaints Commission and other organisations to try to complete that picture.

Since the report was published, the IPCC has been undertaking a thorough review of it and has also begun to examine the 450,000 pages of supporting evidence to identify what conduct, by named or unnamed police officers, requires investigation.

While the review was ongoing we received referrals from West Yorkshire Police Authority in relation to Sir Norman Bettison, South Yorkshire Police in relation to the events before, during and after 15 April 1989, and West Midlands Police in relation to their role in the investigation of events.

We have considered all of this and determined there are a number of matters which require investigation by the IPCC.

These are:

  • The amendments to statements – who ordered it, who knew about it, who was involved in the process, and was pressure put on individual officers?
  • The allegations that misleading information was passed to the media, MPs, Parliament and Inquiries in an apparent attempt to deflect blame from the police on to the fans.
  • The actions of police officers after the disaster, including the questioning of next of kin about alcohol consumption, the checking of blood alcohol levels and the undertaking of Police National Computer checks on the dead and injured
  • The role of West Midlands Police and those who led that investigation into the disaster.

All of these matters will be subject of an independent investigation by the IPCC. We will be setting up a dedicated Hillsborough team to carry this out.

However, in addition, there are other matters where we believe we will have a role to play.

Ninety-six men, women and children died as a result of Hillsborough. The Attorney General must decide whether to apply to the High Court to quash the original inquest verdicts and seek new ones. The Director of Public Prosecutions has announced today that he will review the evidence.

The IPCC will work with the Director of Public Prosecutions, and any Coroner appointed to hear fresh inquests, to carry out any further investigation that may be required before or after any new inquests are held, and identify the appropriate body to investigate any individual or entity we cannot.

I must stress the scope of our work is not yet clear – and we do not underestimate the size of our task.

We do not yet know how many officers or retired officers fall to be investigated for the various matters we have identified, how many are still serving or still alive. Work will continue to identify individuals and their circumstances, and what potential offences require investigation. We can investigate both criminal and misconduct offences after an officer has retired, though retirement prevents any misconduct sanction. We are continuing to review the underlying documentation in the report and other conduct matters may come to light.

An important part of our work will be liaising with the families and other interested parties. We have made contact with them, and will set out the initial scope and projected timing, and keep them in touch with progress. Justice demands that we do whatever is possible to investigate culpability for any offence that may have been committed, and to do so thoroughly and fairly. The families have already waited for twenty-three years. I want to give them my assurance that we will do everything in our power to investigate these serious and disturbing allegations with the careful and robust scrutiny they deserve.