Names of 1,444 police officers handed over to watchdog in probe into Hillsborough disaster

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THE names of 1,444 South Yorkshire police officers have been given to the Independent Police Complaints Commission as part of the probe into the Hillsborough disaster.

Police chiefs in South Yorkshire have handed over the names of all the officers who were working on the day 96 fans died at Hillsborough football stadium in 1991 and those who were involved in the aftermath.

The police watchdog is investigating police actions on the day and afterwards after an independent panel set up to review all the Hillsborough files held by organisations for the last 23 years published a report which laid bare a huge police cover-up.

Police statements were altered to deflect blame from South Yorkshire Police to the football fans at the FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

But questions have been raised about the ability of the police watchdog to cope with its own investigation into the Hillsborough disaster.

During a Commons debate last night MPs said they were concerned the IPCC does not have the resources or manpower to handle the investigation on its own because of the sheer number of officers who could be called to give evidence, including 304 who are still serving with South Yorkshire Police today.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the investigation could not be run just by the watchdog, while Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said there was a ‘problem in respect of resources’.

Ms Cooper said: “It is clear this investigation cannot be done solely by the IPCC, they have neither the powers nor the resources to do so... these investigations are beyond the scale of anything the IPCC have done before and it will also require powers that the IPCC simply doesn’t have.”

Mr Vaz said he favoured the idea of a special prosecutor being appointed to look at all the cases and to act as a co-ordination point.

He added: “As I said to the House earlier, 1,444 names have been sent to the IPCC, of that 304 are still serving officers at South Yorkshire.

“So immediately when you look at the numbers of names that have been referred there will be a problem in respect of resources.

“I think that we should not wait for the IPCC to come and see the Home Secretary, actually a meeting needs to be convened pretty quickly to ask them what they need and to give them the resources that they need.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said she would work with Labour to see if new laws were needed to compel former officers to co-operate with the IPCC.

“This includes proposals to require current and ex-police officers who were maybe witnesses to a crime to attend an interview, and whether this might require fast-track legislation,” she said.

Speaking during the opening of the Commons debate on the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report, Mrs May added: “There is the IPCC investigation and there is also the investigation that is taking place by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“If he believes that wider investigation is necessary the Home Office will make resource available under the ambit of the incoming National Crime Agency, with an investigator who is completely separate and has no connection whatever with these particular issues.”