The Independent Police Complaints Commission will investigate the role of the West Midlands Police in the Hillsborough disaster, and their role in a possible cover-up.
The investigation will affect a large number of former and serving officers and will look specifically at the following critical issues:
- 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, and MPs, Parliament and Inquiries to deflect blame from police
- The role of West Midlands Police and those who led that investigation into the disaster
Margaret Aspinall from the Hillsborough Families Support Group, whose 18-year-old son James died in the disaster has welcomed the police watchdog's announcement:
– West Midlands Police Chief Constable Chris Sims
"I welcome today's decision by the IPCC to look into the role of West Midlands Police following the tragedy at Hillsborough in 1989.
"As Chief Constable I read the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report and immediately referred West Midlands Police to the IPCC.
"Today, the IPCC have accepted that referral and West Midlands Police will give their full support to the IPCC investigation."
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has announced it will investigate a cover up by police of their role in the Hillsborough tragedy. Deputy Chair Deborah Glass said the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel forced them to act:
"The report revealed extremely serious and troubling issues for the police. [...] 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. "
You can see full coverage of the findings of the Hillsborough report here, including the fallout leading to West Yorkshire Police chief constable Sir Norman Bettison's retirement, after the police watchdog received a referral from his police authority over his briefing after the tragedy.
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.
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 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.
– Deborah Glass, Deputy chair of the IPCC
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.
The IPCC has said they "do not underestimate the size of their task" and will work to identify any individuals that require investigation. They said:
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
Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has said that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is now looking at evidence from the recent Hillsborough report for evidence to charge individuals or corporate bodies.
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 15th April 1989, including the material made available by the Independent Panel.
– Keir Starmer QC
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.
The IPCC has announced it will investigate the actions and response of the West Midlands Police to the Hillsborough tragedy. The IPPC said the Hillsborough Independent Panel 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. 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.
The IPPC said it will investigate the following:
- The amendments to statements – who ordered it, who knew about it, who was involved?
- The allegations that misleading information was passed to the media, and MPs, to deflect blame from police
- The role of West Midlands Police and those who led that investigation