Hillsborough justice wheels in motion

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Hillsborough Memorial at Anfield

The publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report has had widespread repercussions, with a number of investigations now underway into the conduct of police officers who were involved in the 1989 stadium disaster.

Current and former members of the South Yorkshire force are facing investigation from the independent police watchdog, and the enormity of the report has been described as exposing “the worst cover-up in British legal history”.

The Attorney General is considering an application to the High Court to overturn the original inquest verdict of ‘accidental death’, with criminal charges also possible.

The report published this week found that in the aftermath of the disaster in Sheffield, which killed 96 people, 164 police statements were altered, 116 of them to remove or amend “unfavourable” comments about the policing on the day.

It was suggested in the report that as many as 41 people could have survived the Leppings Lane end crush had there been a better response from emergency services, and found that the verdict of ‘accidental death’ by the coroner’s court was unsustainable.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron announced in the House of Commons that he was “profoundly sorry” on behalf of the country for what he described as a “double injustice”.

The most senior serving officer under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettison.

Sir Norman, who was an off-duty inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the game and was later involved in the force’s internal inquiry, has denied he was part of any campaign to smear Liverpool fans. He has faced calls to resign by families of the victims of the disaster.

He was forced to issue an apology on Friday for his initial statement following the publication of the report, in which he suggested that Liverpool fans’ behaviour made policing the disaster “harder than it needed to be”.

The 395-page report, which was released along with 450,000 documents related to the disaster that the panel had examined, absolved Liverpool fans of any of the blame for the disaster.

The Hillsborough disaster, April 15th 1989

Sir Norman, who is also a former chief constable of Merseyside Police, said in a later statement that Liverpool fans were in no way to blame for the disaster. He has also welcomed the IPCC investigation of him.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, among others, has called on Sir Norman to be stripped of his Honorary Fellowship at Liverpool John Moores University. LJMU said in a statement that it will handle “these requests in accordance with due process”.

Meanwhile, the current chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, has said that a number of issues related to the disaster and the findings of the report could also be referred to the IPCC.

He said that these could include corporate manslaughter, manslaughter and misconduct in public office charges. There are 195 officers who were on-duty at Hillsborough who are still serving in the force.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said that there should be a criminal inquiry into what happened at Hillsborough.

On Friday, the Football Association chairman David Bernstein issued an apology for the association’s role in the selection of Hillsborough as the FA Cup semi-final venue. The stadium did not have a valid safety certificate at the time of the disaster.

Bernstein said: “We are deeply sorry this tragedy occurred at a venue the FA selected.”

As families of the victims and survivors of the disaster met this weekend to consider their options in the wake of the publication of the sensational report, the Liverpool anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ hit the top of the iTunes download chart. A Twitter campaign successfully urged people to get the Gerry and The Pacemakers song to number one.

The Attorney General is now considering the contents of the report, with expectations that he will decide in the coming weeks whether to apply to the High Court to have the original inquest verdict quashed and a new inquest held. He could also apply to have a new verdict instated.

Any new inquest or inquests into the deaths would likely be delayed by any potential criminal prosecutions that are decided upon so as not to prejudice the outcome of these cases.