Two step down in Hillsborough probe

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Hillsborough justice banner outside Anfield

Hillsborough justice banner outside Anfield

A second top prosecutor is to step aside from making key decisions on possible charges over the Hillsborough disaster.

Peter Lewis, chief executive officer at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), decided to delegate decisions on whether West Midlands Police should face charges, but he will remain in charge of overall decision making.

This is because his past work as a prosecutor in the West Midlands may have resulted in a conflict of interest, as the West Midlands force force took part in the original investigation into the conduct of South Yorkshire Police at Hillsborough.

Last month Alison Saunders, who is to become the new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), abandoned her role entirely and was replaced by Mr Lewis after Hillsborough families criticised her appointment.

It had emerged that Ms Saunders had rejected calls for a fresh inquiry into the disaster in 1996.

The original inquests have since been quashed by the High Court and two new criminal investigations have launched since the Hillsborough Independent Panel published their report last year.

Representatives of families had raised concerns over Mr Lewis’ past during a meeting with current DPP Keir Starmer and members of the investigation teams.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, told the Liverpool Echo: “It pleases us to know that he won’t be making any decisions over West Midlands Police, because of the role he had played in the past. It’s nice to know we have been listened to.”

A CPS spokesperson said that while no conflict of interest was identified, the decision was made to limit the prosecutor’s decision-making just in case.

Sue Hemming, the Head of Special Crime and Counter Terrorism, will make the decisions that Mr Lewis is no longer permitted to make.

Labour MP for Walton Steve Rotheram has written to Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, asking about how Ms Saunders’ decision not to be involved in the investigation was likely to affect the possibility of criminal charges being brought against the groups that are being investigated.

These groups include the police, Sheffield City Council, the FA and Hillsborough owners Sheffield Wednesday FC, among others.

The MP also asked why Ms Saunders, who takes up her new role as DPP in November, was appointed in the first place in light of the revelations.

About James Routledge, JMU Journalism