The police watchdoghas begun consulting families for its independent investigation into the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is examining:
· 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.
IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass, who is leading the investigation, said:
"I have met the Hillsborough Family Support Group and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, and written to all the other families who asked to be updated to advise them of the progress of our investigation and share the terms of reference. I have stressed that these terms of reference will be kept under review as the investigation progresses and have made it clear that we welcome their comments.
‘In relation to the future investigation into the tragic deaths of ninety-six people as a result of the disaster, I welcome the announcement by the Attorney-General that he has applied to the High Court to quash the inquest verdicts. We now await the decision of the High Court, as well as the review of the evidence being led by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the appointment of someone to lead this investigation, which will have to look at the actions of many agencies, not just the police. We will be involved with that investigation too, in relation to the role of the police. We and the DPP are absolutely committed to making sure that the work on the investigation into the aftermath, and the investigation into the deaths, is fully integrated.
"I have also made clear to the families that I understand the desire many of them have for independent scrutiny of what we are doing. While the IPCC and the Director of Public Prosecutions are independent bodies, we are not only coordinating closely, we are also discussing setting up a challenge group of independent people who can scrutinise the work of both organisations to satisfy themselves about the progress, independence and robustness of the work. We have asked the groups to suggest some names to us, and we will also be approaching others.
Ms Glass has also given more information on the progress of the independent investigation.
She said: "We have now secured a suitable office in Warrington, which is large enough to support both the IPCC's ongoing investigation and the future investigation into the deaths, and store all of the documentation that is relevant to both inquiries. We need to put the technical and IT support into the new building to resource fully the task of putting the documents into a format needed for criminal investigation. In the meantime we have set up a Major Incident Room in our current office in Sale, so this process can begin immediately, and we will be launching a major recruitment campaign early in the new year.
In terms of the scale of the investigation Ms Glass explained: "At present we have a list of 1,444 names provided by South Yorkshire Police covering officers who were apparently on duty at Hillsborough, who responded to the disaster or who were involved in the aftermath. In addition we are aware that 30 more police forces or police related bodies had officers or staff who played some kind of role in relation to Hillsborough – that covers more than 400 officers. And we are aware there may be more officers whose details we have not had yet, particularly from West Midlands Police. So we estimate we will have in excess of 2,000 names to analyse.
"Work is ongoing analysing the documentation and identifying what other documentation is in existence and who holds it. The Hillsborough Independent Panel did an extraordinary job in putting information into the public domain which added immeasurably to public understanding and dispelled myths that existed for 23 years. While we will build on the Panel's work, the IPCC has a very different task: to conduct a criminal and misconduct investigation which would stand up to legal scrutiny in potential future criminal trials or misconduct proceedings.
"We know, of course, that the documents already on the Panel website amount to 450,000 pages, a significant task in itself. At present it is difficult to quantify whether other documentation exists that may be relevant to a criminal or misconduct investigation but is not on the Panel website. We are working with the Hillsborough Independent Panel, South Yorkshire Police and other organisations in relation to this. Our work so far indicates there are more documents in existence and we will need to identify and examine them to determine whether they have any relevance to our investigation.
Ms Glass added: ”I understand that many people want to see quick action after all these years. But completing the full picture for the families of those who died, those who were injured and those who were traumatised by the terrible events at Hillsborough is not going to be a quick or easy process. We are making real progress, and within the next month we expect that the shape and integration of this complex and multi-faceted investigation will be clearer. The scale and complexity mean that we have to put the right foundations in place. We don't want to replicate those previous investigations and reviews that came to quick, but incomplete or inaccurate, conclusions.”