Police watchdog to probe Hillsborough ‘major incident room’

The 1989 Hillsborough Disaster
The 1989 Hillsborough Disaster
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STAFF in the ‘major incident room’ set up by South Yorkshire Police after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster to gather evidence from officers are being interviewed as part of a watchdog investigation.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said today that it was examining the role of the major incident room as part of its wide-ranging probe into the actions of police in the aftermath of the tragedy.

The deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium are also separately the subject of a new inquest, which is not expected to finish until 2016.

Among the topics being looked into by the IPCC is how and why police officers’ accounts of the tragedy were altered to remove criticism of the way the disaster was handled.

In the latest update about its investigation, which was launched in 2012, the IPCC says it has been looking at evidence from officers involved at the time “to fully understand the processes around the handling of officers’ accounts”.

It said in a statement: “This also includes reviewing and analysing legal advice that was provided to the force and examining the role of the South Yorkshire Police Major Incident Room.

“A MIR was set up immediately after the disaster and a number of staff were allocated to this area to deal with administrative tasks around gathering evidence from officers in the weeks after the disaster.

“We are currently researching and interviewing the police officers and civilian staff who worked in the MIR to establish how tasks were carried out and the instructions or briefings they received.”

The IPCC is also looking into allegations that “misleading information was passed to the media, MPs, Parliament and Inquiries in an apparent attempt to deflect blame from the police on to the fans”.

It said today: “Our work continues around establishing what information was provided to media and politicians by South Yorkshire Police officers after the disaster.

“We are continuing to make contact with journalists who produced news content about Hillsborough.

“We are making efforts to trace those who worked on the Liverpool Echo and Yorkshire Post at the time of the disaster.

“We are also in the process of researching and contacting journalists who worked on national newspapers who published articles that referred to the behaviour of Liverpool fans.

“In addition, we are following lines of enquiry around journalists who attended the match and were located in the press box at the stadium, including any radio presenters or TV commentators.

“We are continuing to interview politicians and civil servants who we believe may have received briefings about Hillsborough from police officers.

“We have just one interview left to complete with a politician who attended a meeting with South Yorkshire Police after the disaster in the House of Commons.”

The watchdog said enquiries were also ongoing to “to establish whether families and campaigners were placed under police surveillance”.

It said: “Out of the 24 family members who made allegations, we have now completed 17 interviews. Investigators are now following several lines of enquiry resulting from these interviews.

“Our enquiries continue around burglaries that took place at the Hillsborough Justice Campaign shop in Liverpool and the home addresses of one of the complainants.

“In addition, we are liaising with the Home Office about any materials they may hold relating to covert activity around the time of, and following, the disaster.”

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