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'Biggest ever' investigation into police actions promised over Hillsborough

Liverpool fans demand justice for the 96 Photo: Press Association

The biggest ever inquiry into police actions in the UK is to be launched after a damning report on the Hillsborough disaster.

Police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said a large number of serving and former officers will be investigated over what happened on the day of the tragedy in 1989, and during the alleged cover-up afterwards.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer also said he will look at whether any individual or corporate body should be charged over the football stadium disaster, which left 96 people dead.

Mr Starmer said: “Having read and considered the report published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel on 12 September 2012 and liaised with the Home Office and Independent Police Complaints Commission, I have concluded that the Crown Prosecution Service should consider all the material now available in relation to the tragic events on 15 April 1989, including the material made available by the Independent Panel.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer Credit: Press Association

'The purpose of this exercise is to identify what the focus of any further criminal investigation should be in order for the CPS to determine whether there is now sufficient evidence to charge any individual or corporate body with any criminal offence. All potential offences that may have been committed and all potential defendants will be considered.

– Keir Starmer: Director of Public Prosecutions

“In carrying out this exercise, the CPS will work closely with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

“Through the Right Reverend James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, I have today communicated my decision to the bereaved families and their representatives and indicated that, in conjunction with the IPCC, the CPS intends to keep them fully informed of developments and to take such views as they express into account.”

Deputy chair of the IPCC Deborah Glass said "without a shadow of a doubt" it will be the biggest ever investigation carried out into police behaviour in the UK.

Deborah Glass, Deputy Chair IPCC Credit: Press Association

She told reporters: "I think I can confidently say this will be the largest independent inquiry that has been launched into the actions of the police in the United Kingdom."

The report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel published last month claimed that a shocking cover-up was staged in order to shift blame onto the 96 victims.

It alleged that 164 police statements were altered in the wake of the tragedy, 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about the policing of the match and the ensuing disaster.

Questions have also been raised over whether manslaughter charges should be brought over the deaths.

Ms Glass said: "The potential criminal and misconduct offences disclosed by the panel's report fall into two broad categories.

"They are the allegations that go to the heart of what happened at Hillsborough in April 1989 and individuals and institutions may be culpable for the deaths, and there are allegations about what happened after the disaster, that evidence was fabricated and misinformation was spread in an attempt to shift blame."

– Deborah Glass, Deputy Chair IPCC

Allegations that statements were altered and that misleading information was passed to the media and MPs will be investigated and could lead to police misconduct and criminal charges, Ms Glass said.

Claims that officers questioned bereaved next of kin about their loved ones' alcohol consumption, carried out alcohol testing and checked the police national computer to find information about the dead and injured could also lead to charges.

Both South Yorkshire Police, who dealt with the tragedy, and West Midlands Police, who investigated how South Yorkshire handled the disaster, will come under scrutiny.

Ms Glass said: "We will investigate the role of South Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police in these matters. This will mean that a large number of current and former officers will be under investigation, including Sir Norman Bettison, whose conduct was referred by the West Yorkshire Police Authority."

Sir Norman Bettison Credit: Press Association

Sir Norman, currently Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, has been referred to the IPCC over allegations he provided misleading information after the tragedy.

It was revealed today he is also under investigation for allegations he "attempted to influence the decision-making process of the West Yorkshire Police Authority in connection with the referral that they had made", Ms Glass said.

Read more on the ITV National News website.

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