HILLSBOROUGH: Police watchdog 'woefully under-equipped'

Wirral Globe: HILLSBOROUGH: Police watchdog 'woefully under-equipped' HILLSBOROUGH: Police watchdog 'woefully under-equipped'

A SCATHING report has found the police watchdog investigating the Hillsborough disaster is "woefully under-equipped" and does not have the power or resources to get to the truth.

An influential group of MPs said the Independent Police Complaints Commission leaves the public "frustrated and faithless" and should be given statutory powers to require a force to implement its findings.

The IPCC launched the UK's biggest-ever inquiry into police misconduct following revelations that Hillsborough officers' statements were altered and a covert campaign launched to blame fans for the 96 deaths. Twelve of those who died in the 1989 disaster were from Wirral. 

The Hillsborough Independent Panel published its findings last September and had found 164 police statements were significantly amended - and 116 explicitly removed negative comments about the policing operation - including its lack of leadership.

There was evidence showing officers carried out police national computer checks on those who had died in an attempt  "to impugn the reputations of the deceased".

MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee said the commission's lack of powers has left it "ham-strung."

More cases should be investigated independently by the IPCC instead of being referred back to the original police force on a "complaints roundabout".

Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP said: "When public trust in the police is tested by complaints of negligence, misconduct and corruption, a strong watchdog is vital to get to the truth - but the IPCC leaves the public frustrated and faithless."

The watchdog should have a statutory power to force implementation of its findings and in the most serious cases it should instigate a "year on review" to ensure that its recommendations have been properly carried out, the committee said.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Improving police professionalism and integrity are at the cornerstone of the sweeping reforms we are making to the police force, and the IPCC has a key role to play.

"We are already working to ensure the organisation has the powers and resources it needs to manage the challenges it is currently facing and we will shortly announce a package of new measures designed to further improve the public's trust in the police."

The IPCC welcomed the committee's report, saying it had already highlighted many of the recommendations and agreed that it could not meet the public's expectations without further resources and powers.

Commisision chairwoman Dame Anne Owers said: "This report recognises that we do not yet have the resources or powers to do all that the public rightly expects and needs from us. That is what we have been saying for a long time." 

The watchdog, which was established in 2004, investigates the most serious complaints against police.

A total of 31,771 officers were subject to a complaint during 2011/12 and when appeals were made against the way forces handled a complaint, the IPCC found police had been wrong in one-in-three cases.

* On December 19 last year the High Court quashed the original accidental death inquest verdicts returned on fans who  died in the crush at Hillsborough.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and two other judges in London ordered fresh inquests following an application by the Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

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