Police officers on duty at the Hillsborough disaster may refuse to give evidence at the new inquests into the deaths of the 96 football fans who died – for fear of incriminating themselves.
Lawyers for the Police Federation called for the inquests to be delayed for a number of years to allow possible criminal proceedings to be completed first.
Paul Greaney QC, for the Police Federation, said he knew his request would be ‘unpopular’.
There were shouts of ‘disgrace’ at the suggestion, made at a hearing in London to decide a date and venue for the new inquests.
Mr Greaney said officers could exercise their right not to answer questions.
“Many of those witnesses will be under investigation for possible offences, including homicide, and there is the potential for them to be prosecuted.
“It is likely there will be an increased incidence of witnesses refusing to give evidence by invoking the privilege against self incrimination.”
John Beggs QC, representing the three most senior ranking officers on duty on the day of the disaster – Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield and Superintendents Roger Greenwood and Roger Marshall, supported the call for the delay.
But coroner Lord Justice Goldring refused to delay proceedings and said the inquest would begin next year.
Fans died at Hillsborough in April 1989 when Liverpool FC played Nottingham Forest at an FA Cup semi-final.
Too many fans were allowed into part of the stadium, on Leppings Lane, causing crushing on the terraces.
Verdicts of accidental death from the original inquests were quashed following the publication of a report by an independent panel set up to review all the files on the disaster held for the last 24 years.