PRESSURE was growing today for criminal prosecutions to be brought against police officers involved in the Hillsborough disaster, writes Graham Walker.
It follows the damning report, published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which laid bare a shocking cover-up that attempted to shift the blame on to its 96 victims.
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The report found that 164 police statements were altered, 116 of them to remove or alter “unfavourable” comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.
The families of the Liverpool fans killed 23 years ago said the report had vindicated them, and have pledged to carry on their fight by pursuing criminal prosecutions against those who they said should “hang their heads in shame”.
Former Cabinet minister Lord Falconer, who is advising the victims’ relatives alongside Michael Mansfield QC, told BBC Breakfast: “The question of criminal proceedings needs to be looked at.”
Liverpool-born shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, who was instrumental in the creation of the panel, said the role of serving police officers implicated in the report must be investigated further.
“There now has to be a process of investigation into what they did, what they knew, what they ordered, and where accountability lies,” he said.
David Crompton, who was appointed chief constable of South Yorkshire Police in April, said the issue of criminal responsibility for the changing of statements was the same as in any other situation.
He said: “If someone has falsified something and it breaches the criminal law then, fair enough, that applies to anybody, whether it’s in relation to Hillsborough or anything else. They should face prosecution, let’s be clear about it.”
The Liverpool supporters died in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium on April 15 1989, where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.
It is expected that the victims’ relatives, largely represented by the Hillsborough Families Support Group, will meet in the coming days to discuss how they take matters further. One of their first steps will be to start the process of overturning the inquest verdicts of accidental death, which is already being considered by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve.
Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said on Wednesday night: “They were a disgrace, they were a mockery and the system should be ashamed of itself. The fight will go on.”