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HILLSBOROUGH: Police watchdog sets up inquiry HQ and begins consulting families
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun consulting families for its independent investigation into the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy.
The commission has now established offices in Warrington as a base for its inquiry team and has set up a major incident room at its headquarters at Sale near Manchester.
The moves follow the announcement in October that the police watchdog is to launch the UK’s biggest ever investigation into the conduct of officers in the wake of “extremely serious and troubling” findings by the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
Deborah Glass, commission deputy chairwoman, said the panel’s report “provoked a demand for those responsible for the actions revealed…to be held to account."
The panel's review was published in September and revealed an apparent massive cover-up had been staged by police and others to shift blame onto the 96 victims.
It found 164 police statements were altered after the tragedy, 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about policing of the match.
The prospect was also raised that manslaughter charges could be brought over the deaths.
Twelve people from Wirral lost their lives as a result of the disaster.
The commission has now established its inquiry’s terms of reference.
They 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?
• Amendments to statements: who ordered it, who knew about it, who was involved in the process, and was pressure put on individual officers?
• Allegations misleading information was passed to the media, MPs, Parliament and inquiries in an apparent attempt to deflect blame from police on to fans.
• 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.
Ms Glass, who is leading the inquiry, 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 96 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."
In terms of the scale of the IPCC 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.”
She said the IPCC faces 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.
Ms Glass added: ”I understand 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 don't want to replicate those previous investigations and reviews that came to quick, but incomplete or inaccurate, conclusions.”