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No Hillsborough 'cover-up' charges for three former South Yorkshire Police officers

The Hillsborough disaster unfolds in 1989.
The Hillsborough disaster unfolds in 1989.

Three former South Yorkshire Police will not face charges into allegations of a "cover-up" by the force following the Hillsborough disaster - despite “indications” that two of them may have committed a criminal offence.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) - now renamed the Independent Office for Police Conduct - investigated allegations that these three senior officers participated in a strategy to minimise South Yorkshire Police culpability for the disaster by wrongly blaming Liverpool fans.

In particular, it is alleged that officers sought to deliberately mislead the Lord Justice Taylor inquiry, the contributions hearing and the original inquest proceedings. Potential offences of perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office and conspiracy to commit these offences were all considered as part of the police watchdog's investigation.

However, the IOPC said today it was not referring the cases on to the Crown Prosecution Service - in part because doing so may delay the trials of six other individuals who have already been charged with offences relating to the disaster.

The CPS has also announced today that they will not be charging two former senior West Midlands Police (WMP) officers in relation to the investigation conducted by the force into the causes of the disaster.

A statement from the IOPC said: “Although there was some indication that two of the three former officers may have committed a criminal offence, it was not deemed appropriate to refer their cases because the CPS had already rejected the possibility of bringing criminal charges based on substantial evidence that was reviewed in 2016. No further evidence or legal matters have since been identified that could realistically alter that view.

“The fact a referral at this stage could also potentially delay the trials of the former SYP officers and individuals already charged was also taken into account.”

Rachel Cerfontyne, IPOC Strategic Lead for Hillsborough, said: “At the core of my decision not to refer these SYP officers for formal charging decisions is the CPS’s clear view that charges would not be brought and the risk that a referral could cause disruption to the forthcoming Hillsborough trials.

“The evidence gathered by the investigation team has been wide ranging and thorough. I have reviewed it very carefully, as I know the CPS have done.

“This will now be used to determine if any officer involved in Hillsborough would have had a case to answer for misconduct if they were still serving. These findings, along with underlying evidence, will be set out in full in the Hillsborough final investigation report.”

Meanwhile, the CPS has said no charges will be brought against two former West Midlands Police officers who were being investigated for their role in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

The two suspects, from the force which investigated the disaster in 1989, were alleged to have failed to investigate the causes of the disaster properly, either deliberately or negligently.

It was alleged that a misleading or incomplete file was submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1990.

A CPS spokesman said: “After careful consideration of the evidence, and the detailed advice provided by counsel, it has been decided that the evidential threshold for criminal prosecution is not met in relation to either suspect.”

He said that “whilst there was found to be some cause for concern in the actions of both suspects”, the evidence was “insufficient to reach the high threshold required to prove a criminal offence”.

The spokesman said there was evidence that some aspects of the investigation were not carried out to a high standard, but there was a lack of evidence showing a deliberate plan of action by the suspects.

In a letter sent to families of the 96 victims this week, Sue Hemming, Head of Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division at the CPS, said: “I appreciate that my decision will be disappointing to you, but I would like to reassure you that in reaching this conclusion, we have spent a significant amount of time reviewing and considering the evidence that was submitted to us.”

The spokesman said no other files were being considered in relation to the disaster.

Six men, including match commander David Duckenfield, already face charges relating to the disaster and its aftermath.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died in the crush at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough stadium on April 15 1989, as the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest began.