HILLSBOROUGH: Police watchdog to launch UK's biggest ever inquiry into officers' conduct (From Wirral Globe)
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HILLSBOROUGH: Police watchdog to launch UK's biggest ever inquiry into officers' conduct
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, deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said the panel’s report “provoked a demand for those responsible for the actions revealed…to be held to account."
A dedicated Hillsborough team is to be set up to carry out the far-reaching investigation.
The panel's report was published last month 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 has also been raised that manslaughter charges could be brought over the deaths.
Twelve people from Wirral lost their lives as a result of the disaster.
In a statement today, Ms Glass said: “One month ago the Hillsborough Independent Panel delivered a report that gave the families of those who died, those that were injured and those who were traumatised in the terrible events of April 15 1989, the details they had sought for 23 years.
“The 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.
“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."
She said 23 years was far too long to wait.
The aftermath of the tragedy has created a "generation of distress and anger" and the picture is not yet complete.
It is now for the Independent Police Complaints Commission and other organisations to try to complete that picture.
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.
While the review was ongoing the IPCC received referrals from West Yorkshire Police Authority in relation to Sir Norman Bettison in relation to the events before, during and after the tragedy, and West Midlands Police in relation to their role in the investigation of events.
Ms Glass said the watchdog has considered all of this and determined there are a number of matters which require investigation.
• 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.
All of these matters will be subject of an independent investigation by the IPCC and a dedicated Hillsborough team will be set up to carry this out.
However there are other matters where the IPCC believes it will have a role to play.
Ms Glass said: “Ninety-six men, women and children died as a result of Hillsborough. The Attorney General must decide whether to apply to the High Court to quash the original inquest verdicts and seek new ones.
"The Director of Public Prosecutions has announced today that he will review the evidence.
“The IPCC will work with the Director of Public Prosecutions, and any coroner appointed to hear fresh inquests, to carry out any further investigation that may be required before or after any new inquests are held, and identify the appropriate body to investigate any individual or entity we cannot.
“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. “
She said 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."
Ms Glass concluded: “Justice demands that we do whatever is possible to investigate culpability for any offence that may have been committed, and to do so thoroughly and fairly.
"The families have already waited for 23 years.
"I want to give them my assurance that we will do everything in our power to investigate these serious and disturbing allegations with the careful and robust scrutiny they deserve.”