IPCC tells MPs that hundreds of officers beyond South Yorkshire force will be investigated and more documents uncovered
The massive scale of the inquiry by the police watchdog into the Hillsborough disaster emerged on Tuesday during evidence to parliament.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has been given a preliminary list of names of 1,444 officers currently serving with South Yorkshire police. But the IPCC's chief executive, Jane Furniss, told the home affairs select committee there are likely to be hundreds more officers they have to look at from up to 15 other forces who were involved in providing support. The true figure of officers being examined for their role was around 2,444.
Dame Anne Owers, the chair of the IPCC, revealed that 450,000 pages of documents needed by her team had been given back to the various authorities that owned them. The documents were uncovered and examined by the Hillsborough independent panel, which produced the damning report on the tragedy in September and led to the IPCC announcing a criminal inquiry.
But as the documents have been handed back, the IPCC, as a starting point has to gather them together again and enter them onto the Home Office large major enquiry system (Holmes) before its investigation begins. This process could take months.
Furniss told MPs that her organisation would be asking for extra resources from the home secretary to carry out the inquiry.
"The documentation is a significant challenge," she said. "Retrieving documents that were returned to different authorities, then logging them on to the Holmes system … that will take some time." Pressed on how long it would take, Furniss said months.
She did not reveal to the committee how the IPCC intends to input the documentation onto Holmes. The Metropolitan police has access in some major cases to Altia – a software system that scans documents into the Holmes system very quickly. According to sources, inputting the documents without this system could take significantly longer than a few months.
Since the Hillsborough independent panel reported, more documents have been uncovered, the committee heard.
The IPCC is also getting new information and allegations from members of the public, and through their engagement with the Hillsborough families.
Allegations include members of the public claiming they were prevented from making statements, or that they were bullied into withdrawing them.
"So there are new allegations coming to us as a result of us announcing what we are doing," said Furniss.
Owers told the committee that the IPCC's Hillsborough inquiry was into the aftermath of the tragedy – into whether there was a cover-up, why blood samples were taken, what information was released to the media.
"This is going to be a large and complex investigation," Owers said.
The Hillsborough independent panel's report exposed the scale of the apparent cover-up by South Yorkshire police in the aftermath of the disaster in 1989 that left 96 dead.
It revealed that the force from the outset sought to emphasise the exceptional levels of drunkenness and aggression among Liverpool fans, and revealed for the first time that 116 of the 164 police statements were substantially amended to remove or alter comments that were unfavourable to South Yorkshire police. Both the IPCC and the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, are conducting inquiries into possible crimes committed by police.
The DPP is reviewing evidence to see if there are any charges that can be brought and the IPCC is examining whether there was a criminal cover-up by South Yorkshire police.