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Hillsborough disaster: watchdog to launch biggest ever inquiry into police

IPCC to investigate 1989 disaster and aftermath as Crown Prosecution Service says it will consider criminal charges

The deputy chair of the police watchdog unveils the 'largest ever independent inquiry' into the actions of the police in the UK Link to this video
The independent police watchdog is to launch a major, wide-ranginginvestigation into allegations of misconduct by South Yorkshire police, West Midlands police and others arising from the Hillsborough independent panel report published last month.
The director of public prosecutions (DPP), Kier Starmer, has also announced that he will immediately review all the evidence in the 395-page report to decide whether new charges of manslaughter can be brought.
"I have now concluded that the Crown Prosecution Service should consider all the material now available in relation to the tragic events of 15 April 1989, including material made available by the independent panel," Starmer said.
"The purpose of this investigation is to identify what the focus of any further criminal investigation should be in order for the CPS to determine whether this is now sufficient evidence to charge any individual or corporate body with any criminal offence."
The DPP will look into the potential for new manslaughter charges, while the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will investigate the aftermath of the tragedy and identify possible criminal offences or disciplinary action.
"We are going to be launching an independent investigation into those new matters. We've carried out a review of the report and begun looking at the 450,000 pages of underlying evidence. We have identified a large number of potential criminal and misconduct offences," said Deborah Glass, the deputy chair of the IPCC.
"The potential criminal misconduct offences fall into two broad categories. There are allegations that go to the heart of what happened at Hillsborough and allegations about what happened afterwards."
The investigation, the biggest ever independent review of the police in the UK, will look into allegations that police officers' statements were changed and that misleading information was passed to the media and parliament.
It will primarily focus on South Yorkshire police, in charge on the day of the tragedy, and West Midlands police, who carried out an investigation into their colleagues.
It will also investigate the actions of the police after the disaster including claims that families were asked about the drinking habits of the deceased and that computer checks were undertaken to see whether they had criminal records. The decision to take the blood alcohol levels of the deceased will also be examined.
"A large number of current and former officers will be under investigation, including Sir Norman Bettison," Glass said.
Bettison, the West Yorkshire chief constable who was at the match as a spectator and later took part in an internal inquiry, announced earlier this month that he planned to take early retirement.
The report showed that he took part in the preparation of a video presenting the police's version of events. He was accused by the Labour MP Maria Eagle of being part of a "black ops" unit designed to cover up the police's role in the disaster.
The IPCC said it would also investigate a second complaint from the West Yorkshire Police Authority that Bettison had tried to influence it over its referral.
"At the moment, we don't actually know which officers we're investigating. This will be the largest independent inquiry that has been launched into the actions of the police in the United Kingdom," said Glass.
It will take several months to scope the extent of the inquiry. There are believed to be 200 officers on duty on the day who are still serving in the South Yorkshire police force.
The Hillsborough independent panel, which reported last month after being asked to re-examine all the circumstances around the disaster with full unrestricted access to all related documents, reasserted that fans were in no way at fault and for the first time laid bare the extent of the police cover-up.
It reaffirmed the findings of the Taylor report published in the wake of the disaster, which showed that it was caused by the unsafe stadium and the police.
It also showed how by the evening of the disaster South Yorkshire police had already begun a process of constructing an alternative narrative that blamed drunken fans.
Of 141 police statements substantially changed in the wake of the disaster, 116 were altered to remove negative comments about the policing operation.
"The alleged nature of some of the amendments may amount to the criminal offences of perverting the course of justice or misconduct in public office. The deliberate alteration of statements may also raise misconduct offences in relation to honesty and integrity," said Glass.
The IPCC said the aftermath of the disaster had never been investigated and it has sought assurances from the home secretary that it will have sufficient resources to do so.
It will also investigate new claims contained in the report that senior officers may have lied about whether they knew the central tunnel into the Leppings Lane end of the stadium was closed at semi-finals in previous years (1981, 1987 and 1988) to prevent overcrowding.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, it was decided in August 1990 that no charges of manslaughter could be brought against the police, Sheffield Wednesday, the consultant stadium engineers Eastwoods or Sheffield city council.
The QCs who examined the evidence on behalf of the DPP also examined the case for bringing manslaughter and culpable misfeasance charges against individuals including Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander, but recommended that none be brought against any individual or organisation.
Action by the Police Complaints Authority also came to nothing, with Duckenfield retiring due to ill health in October 1991. A private prosecution brought by members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group against Duckenfield and Superintendent Bernard Murray led to a trial at Leeds crown court in 2000. Murray was acquitted and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on Duckenfield.
The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, has yet to decide whether to apply to the high court to quash the existing verdict of accidental death for the 96 who were killed and order a new inquest.
That would normally have to wait until criminal charges were brought, but the coroner could to proceed without them.
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Ditulis oleh: taufik hidayat - Friday, October 12, 2012

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