IPCC could probe Hillsborough police lies

Hillsborough 1989: After the truth comes the search for justice
Hillsborough 1989: After the truth comes the search for justice
Alex Stevenson By

The search for justice after yesterday's Hillsborough report appears to be making progress, as the police watchdog looked set to take over a fresh investigation of wrongdoing by officers.

South Yorkshire police said it was looking at referring itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Its officers' systematic cover-up of the truth, the Sun newspaper's willingness to accept their story and the inadequacy of the original inquest are now facing the renewed light of public scrutiny after the publication of hundreds of thousands of pages of documents yesterday.

A referral to the IPCC would involve naming specific officers it believes require investigation, which could prove a laborious job. In all 164 statements were "significantly amended" and some officers carried out national computer checks in an attempt to "impugn" the reputation of those who had died.

"I would like reassurances that the IPCC would have the powers and the investigative capacity to pursue this properly, or what alternatives there might be," shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.

"It is clear as the prime minister said yesterday that previous inquiries have not been sufficient.

"Justice must be done and lessons must be learnt. Those who acted criminally or inappropriately must face the consequences and this should never be allowed to happen again."

An IPCC probe would be the first step towards the criminal prosecutions demanded by the victims' families earlier. They have been joined by Labour in calling for a fresh inquest.

"Yesterday the full truth was finally uncovered - anyone reading the panel's report could not possibly conclude that Hillsborough was an accident," shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said.

"I will not rest until the verdict of accidental death is overturned."

Attorney-general Dominic Grieve will review the evidence and decide whether to apply to the high court for the original inquest to be quashed. Its pathologist incorrectly argued that all the victims were dead before 15:15, a quarter of an hour after the kick-off in the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday.

Yesterday the Hillsborough Independent Panel said that as many as 41 of the 96 victims still had the "potential" to survive after that time.

The victims' families are threatening to pursue legal action against those who covered up failings in the policing operation.

Trevor Hicks, who lost two daughters in the fatal crush at Hillsborough, told BBC2's Newsnight programme that he expected those in positions of authority would do all they could to press for criminal action.

"If I come back to David Cameron's statement, he said quite categorically that the state had let us down," he said.

"So we will give the state the opportunity to put that right. But if it looks as though they're not going to do that, then we will do as we've done before and we'll take it out of their hands."

The prime minister's acknowledgement of the "double injustice" suffered by the victims' families – that the reputation of those in the crowd had been muddied by allegations that they were under the influence of alcohol and that this somehow played a part in their death – was greeted with particular relief by the families yesterday.

Anger remains at the zeal with which the Sun newspaper, in particular, embraced the police's lies under its headline: 'The Truth'.

Current editor Dominic Mohan said: "We said it was the truth — it wasn't.

"It's a version of events that 23 years ago The Sun went along with and for that we're deeply ashamed and profoundly sorry."

News International, which owns the Sun, pointed the finger at a Sheffield news agency and the former Sheffield Hallam MP Irvine Patnick as the source of the rumours.

Labour backbencher John Mann has begun calls for Patnick to be stripped of his knighthood.

"The shameful and disgusting behaviour of Sir Irvine Patnick is a significant feature in the Hillsborough independent panel report and his knighthood should be removed immediately," he said.


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