Decision not to investigate former South Yorkshire Police chief upheld

A police watchdog decision not to investigate a complaint about a former South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable has been upheld.

Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 12:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 2:57 pm
David Crompton

The Independent Police Complaints Commission's deputy chairman, Rachel Cerfontyne, opted against investigating a complaint by relatives of Hillsborough disaster victims who claimed former Chief Constable David Crompton directed his legal team to blame Liverpool supporters for the fatal crush during inquests into the deaths of 96 fans who lost their lives

She said her assessment of the evidence did not indicate that a 'criminal or misconduct offence' had occurred.

Ms Cerfontyne also concluded that 'a meaningful investigation would not be possible' because records of communication between the former police chief and force lawyers, including instructions, were not available for scrutiny.

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She said the instructions given to force lawyers were 'subject to legal professional privilege,' which South Yorkshire Police had 'refused to waive'.

The IPCC asked for its decision to be reviewed independently and Hugh Tomlinson QC concluded that there were no 'proper grounds' for investigating the Hillsborough families’ complaint. He agreed with the watchdog that the questions asked by South Yorkshire Police's legal team during the inquests did not suggest that they were part of a 'deliberate or predetermined strategy'.

But he described South Yorkshire Police's decision not to make details of the legal team instructions public as 'regrettable,' and admitted the lack of disclosure would 'hamper' any investigation but said it would not make a probe impossible.

The complaint against Mr Crompton centered around an apology he made in 2012 over 'disgraceful lies' made by police officers about Liverpool fans, which 'blamed' them for the disaster.

Relatives were upset that police lawyers used the inquests the question the behaviour of fans, despite the earlier apology.

Mr Tomlinson said although the police force's apology 'appeared to be a clear acceptance that Liverpool fans were not blame for the disaster', it did not involve an acceptance of 'sole responsibility,' which he said 'left open the possibility of it arguing that the actions or omissions of others contributed to the disaster'.

He said he agreed with the allegation from victims' families that South Yorkshire Police attempted to 'spread the blame' during the inquests.

He said the approach of the police could 'properly be criticised' but 'there is no evidence to suggest that Mr Crompton gave instructions to advance an improper case and, as a result, there are no reasonable grounds to investigate the complaint'.

* An IPCC review into claims that a former South Yorkshire Police press officer was ordered to spin the coverage of the Hillsborough inquests has failed to find any evidence.

Investigators concluded that Hayley Court was encouraged to build a working relationship with journalists, but no corroborating evidence was found to support the allegations that it was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the media.

Ms Cerfontyne said: "It is reasonable to expect that somebody employed to liaise with the media at the Hillsborough inquests should build a relationship with journalists in order to carry out the role effectively. However, it would be improper if this relationship was used to unethically influence or manipulate the media in the way that is alleged.

"This matter has been investigated thoroughly and I am satisfied that the evidence does not support the allegations."