Hillsborough criminal investigations could conclude this year
The criminal investigations into the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath could finish by the end of the year.
Detectives and investigators from a police watchdog will now focus on inquiries into what happened around the disaster itself, and claims of corruption in the wake of the 96 deaths.
A police probe is looking at the lead-up to the tragedy and the day of the doomed match itself, and a separate inquiry by watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the alleged cover-up afterwards.
The officer leading the police inquiry, Assistant Commissioner Jon Stoddart, said: “Today is a day for the families. They have fought hard for many years for these new inquests and today brings an end to this particular part of their journey.
“My thoughts and those of my team are with the families and friends of the 96 as they take stock of what has happened over the past two years at the court in Warrington and begin to understand the determinations of the jury.
“For the past two years, my team has supported the coroner, Sir John Goldring, and provided him with thousands of documents, witness statements and reports to assist him in conducting these inquests. While completing this task, my team has also been carrying out a criminal investigation.
“Now that the inquests have concluded my sole focus is on completing the criminal investigation which I expect will be finished by the turn of the year. It will then be for the Crown Prosecution Service to consider the evidence and decide whether any individual or organisation should face criminal prosecution.”
The IPCC also expects its investigation – the biggest in its history – to finish in December or January.
IPCC Deputy Chairwoman Rachel Cerfontyne said: “The conclusion of the inquests is another milestone and a day when my thoughts are with the families and friends of those who died as a result of the disaster.
“Now the inquests have ended our role in providing documents and other material to support the coroner is over.
“However the end of the inquests does not mark the end of the process. Our attention now focuses on concluding our criminal investigation into the aftermath of the disaster. This is by far the biggest and most complex investigation ever undertaken by the IPCC.
“We have made significant progress on the investigation and we will continue to work closely with Operation Resolve and the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue our remaining lines of enquiry as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. I anticipate we will conclude the criminal investigations by the turn of the year.”
Both the police team and the IPCC will submit files to the Crown Prosecution Service if there is enough evidence for potential prosecutions.
Sue Hemming, Head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division at the CPS, said: “Following the inquests’ determinations the CPS team will continue to work closely with Operation Resolve and the IPCC as in due course the CPS will formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body based upon all the available evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
“We would ask that everyone is mindful of the continuing investigations and the potential for future criminal proceedings when reporting or publicly commenting on the inquests’ conclusions.”