Hillsborough police officers may face manslaughter inquiry
- 14 September 2012
- From the section England
The police watchdog may be asked whether officers involved in the Hillsborough disaster should face manslaughter investigations.
The Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, said the force was looking into a number of issues to refer to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
An independent report into the tragedy found police tried to blame Liverpool fans for the crush on 15 April 1989.
The IPCC is reviewing the report.
Mr Crompton said the issues the force may refer could include corporate manslaughter, manslaughter and misconduct in public office.
He also said questions should be raised about why the earlier Lord Justice Stuart-Smith report, which looked into the alteration of police statements, was accepted.
Ninety-five fans were crushed to death and hundreds more injured on the overcrowded terraces of the Hillsborough stadium, which was hosting an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
The 96th victim, Tony Bland, was left in a coma after the disaster and died in 1993.
The victims' families have always challenged the original inquest, which concluded all the victims were dead or brain dead 15 minutes after the game had kicked off at 15:00.
Mr Crompton, speaking at a South Yorkshire Police Authority meeting in Barnsley, said: "Clearly, there may be potential for corporate manslaughter, given some of the detail which came out the other day.
"That relates, of course, to how things were handled on the day and the view taken about the 3.15 cut-off point.
"In addition to that, there may, again potentially, be the possibility of manslaughter investigations against individuals.
"Again, these are only potentials, these are things we are looking at at the moment, I'm not saying that these are definitely things which are to be referred to the IPCC."
Other areas that the force will be considering referring to the IPCC will be issues of misconduct in public office and leaking information to the media, he added.
He confirmed there would be a referral to the police watchdog "in the next couple of weeks".
West Yorkshire's police authority is also to investigate the role played by its current chief constable, Sir Norman Bettison.
The former South Yorkshire officer, who was an off-duty inspector at the game, is coming under mounting pressure to resign after releasing a statement suggesting fans made the job of the police more difficult on the day of the tragedy.
Speaking on Thursday, he said: "Fans behaviour, to the extent that it was relevant at all, made the job of the police, in the crush outside Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be."
But on Friday afternoon he released a second statement saying fans "were in no way to blame for the disaster".
He said he was sorry if his first statement had caused further upset.
He added: "My role was never to besmirch the fans. I did not do that. I am deeply sorry that impression and slight has lingered for 23 years."
Earlier, John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, said many of his constituents were at the game and is calling for Sir Norman to resign.
"I thought his position yesterday was rather shaky, but after the statement he made when he seemed to have a go again at the Liverpool fans, I think his position is untenable. He has got to go."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Sir Norman's comments about the Hillsborough disaster, were "insensitive and ill-judged".
The Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has also asked Liverpool John Moores University to strip Sir Norman of an honorary fellowship conferred on him in 2004.
A spokeswoman for the university said: "This request will receive due consideration."
Deputy chairwoman of the IPCC, Deborah Glass, said the report raised "extremely serious and troubling issues for the police".
She added: "We are reviewing the panel's report and we are aware that South Yorkshire Police are also carrying out a detailed assessment of the report with a view to making a referral to the IPCC.
"We also await the decision by the Attorney General in respect of the inquests, and will liaise with the relevant parties to identify what should be investigated, and by whom."
The report was made public by the Hillsborough Independent Panel on Wednesday.
Panel members, chaired by Bishop of Liverpool the Right Reverend James Jones, spent two years trawling through more than 400,000 documents relating to the disaster at the start of the FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday's ground.
Their report showed police amended 164 of the police statements made about the tragedy, with 116 of those substantially changed to remove or alter "unfavourable" comments regarding the policing of the match.
It also showed the lives of 41 of the victims could potentially have been saved if the response of the emergency services had been swifter.