In the Media

Theresa May backs Hillsborough prosecutions

PUBLISHED September 17, 2012

Police officers or anyone else who broke the law in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster should be pursued and, if the evidence is sufficient, prosecuted, the Home Secretary said today.

Theresa May said she was still digesting the "deeply shocking and disturbing report" but was "absolutely clear" that those who broke the law should be prosecuted.

Home Office officials have been asked to ensure the "necessary resource, support, advice and co-operation" are in place "to facilitate any and all investigations into individual and systemic issues", the Home Secretary said.

Mrs May said: "We are still digesting what is a comprehensive report into a complicated series of issues, as well as the various ways in which the report needs to be acted upon in order to move from truth to justice.

"That being said, I am absolutely clear that those who have broken the law should be pursued and, if the evidence is sufficient, prosecuted.

"Investigating individual criminality where there is new evidence or new allegations that have not previously been investigated, whether on the part of serving or retired police officers, is the remit of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)".

The Home Secretary made her comments in a letter to Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee.

The damning Hillsborough Independent Panel report revealed a cover-up took place to shift the blame on to the victims and that 41 of the 96 lives lost at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium could have been saved.

The panel found that 164 police statements were altered, 116 of them to remove or alter "unfavourable" comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.

Reviews have been ordered by police authorities in West Yorkshire into the actions of Sir Norman Bettison, West Yorkshire Police's current chief constable, who was an off-duty inspector with the South Yorkshire force when he attended the game in 1989, and was involved in an internal inquiry held by the force in its aftermath.

West Midlands Police, which also conducted an investigation into the disaster, will also carry out a review.

South Yorkshire Police, which still employs 195 officers who were on duty at the ground on the day of the tragedy, said the force would refer itself to the IPCC.

Chief constable David Crompton said South Yorkshire Police would consider asking the IPCC whether those involved in the Hillsborough tragedy should face manslaughter investigations.

Mrs May said the report was "deeply shocking and disturbing in what it sets out".

IPCC chief executive Jane Furniss has also asked her staff to review the report "to identify whether there are any other matters relating to any of the officers serving in South Yorkshire Police at the time that should be referred for investigation", Mrs May said.

Mrs May went on: "I have asked my officials in the Home Office to co-ordinate with all of the relevant bodies and people involved to ensure that the necessary resource, support, advice and co-operation are in place to facilitate any and all investigations into individual and systemic issues that emerge from the panel's findings.

"As any new inquest and investigation by the IPCC unfold, I will closely monitor the emerging issues and findings.

"I am fully prepared to make use of all the powers available to me, as well as to deploy the various investigative and regulatory bodies, including Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), to work at speed and in close co-operation with one another, to undertake whatever is needed to resolve the very serious problems identified in the independent panel's report."

Mr Vaz said he welcomed "the Home Secretary's commitment to prosecuting those officers involved in Hillsborough who broke the law".

The letter was released as lawyers acting on behalf of families of those killed in the disaster wrote to the Attorney General demanding that new inquests be held in Liverpool.

The Hillsborough Families Support Group (HFSG) met at Anfield yesterday to discuss the next step in its campaign for justice for the 96 victims of the 1989 disaster.