Hillsborough Investigation Update
Nearly 11 years since the IOPC opened their investigation, and 34 years since the disaster which took 97 lives, the report into police conduct is still yet to be published.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation was first launched in October 2012 following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel (HIP) report the previous month. The HIP report concluded that Liverpool FC fans were not responsible for the disaster, and that the primary cause was a lack of police control. The IOPC have confirmed that the aim of the investigation is to ‘ensure that lessons are learned from the disaster to help improve public confidence in policing.’
The report will include all investigative work carried out by the IOPC and Operation Resolve and will also cover areas which have not yet been subject to a criminal inquiry, such as the role that investigating force West Midlands Police played.
The investigation is the largest independent probe into alleged police misconduct and criminality ever carried out in England and Wales. It is said to include more than 11,000 lines of enquiries, over 5,000 recorded statements, over 1,000 witness interviews and a review of over 215,000 documents. In addition, independent advice from experts in the field of veterinary science, handwriting, coronial and criminal investigations have been sought. The IOPC have also confirmed that around 22,000 exhibits have been seized from South Yorkshire Police.
Before publication, those criticised within the report, will have the opportunity to respond to the findings. This is known as the Salmon Process and takes its name from Lord Justice Salmon, who first implemented specific principles in 1966 which apply to the publication of reports from public inquiries and other statutory processes where individuals and/or organisations are criticised.
The IOPC has confirmed that over 2,300 individuals or organisations feature in the final report but not all will be contacted as part of The Salmon process. Only those where information relating to them could amount to criticism will be approached. The IOPC have confirmed that the notification of those relevant bodies and individuals has begun. Once an individual or organisation is notified, they have 28 days to respond. However, they IOPC have confirmed that applications can be made to extend this.
During earlier stages of the investigation a number of former police officers were advised of potential criticism. They will also be included in the Salmon Process and may be served with notice during this period that they are being investigated for actions that could amount to alleged criminality.
The IOPC have not been able to provide any timescales for completion, stating on their website ‘Due to the considerable size of this task, we can’t predict exactly how long the process will take to complete, but we will provide progress updates when we are able to do so.’ However, this lack of certainty nearing the end of such an extremely long investigation may not be welcome those effected by the disaster. A spokeswoman for the Hillsborough Law Now campaign told the BBC that they were "extremely disappointed" with the police response.