A 'large number" of current and former police officers face investigations into their role in the Hillsborough disaster (Reuters)
A 'large number" of current and former police officers face investigations into their role in the Hillsborough disaster (Reuters)

The Hillsborough disaster and subsequent cover-up are to be analysed in the biggest investigation ever carried out into British policing.

Following the recent publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's (HIP's) report into the disaster, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is to hold its own inquiry - and has warned that a "large number" of current and former officers could face charges.

The IPCC investigation will look into the actions of South Yorkshire Police, who were in charge on the day of the tragedy, and West Midlands Police, who carried out the investigation in its immediate aftermath.

The HIP's report revealed police altered the statements of 164 witnesses following the tragedy, and 116 of the amendments were designed to exonerate the authorities and blame drunken Liverpool fans.

The actions of West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, who was accused in the HIP report of misleading police in the wake of disaster, will also come under scrutiny. Bettinson announced he is going to retire from the force in March, and denies any involvement in the altering of statements.

Deputy chair of the IPCC Deborah Glass said: "I think I can confidently say this will be the largest independent inquiry that has been launched into the actions of the police in the United Kingdom.

"We've carried out a review of the report and begun looking at the 450,000 pages of underlying evidence. We have identified a large number of potential criminal and misconduct offences."

Glass added that the HIP report's allegations "fall into two broad categories. There are the allegations that go to the heart of what happened at Hillsborough in April 1989, and individuals and institutions may be culpable for the deaths, and there are allegations about what happened after the disaster, that evidence was fabricated and misinformation was spread in an attempt to shift blame."

Hillsborough justice supporters have celebrated Sir Norman's retirement (West Yorkshire Police)
Hillsborough justice supporters have celebrated Sir Norman Bettison's retirement (West Yorkshire Police)

The Director of Public Prosecutions has also announced he will launch an investigation into the police's conduct during and after the tragedy, based on the HIP's findings.

Keir Starmer has promised to look into whether individuals or whole corporations should be charged over the tragedy which left 96 people dead. Specifically, he will assess whether any manslaughter charges should be brought in relation to Hillsborough.

Starmer said in a statement: "I have concluded that the Crown Prosecution Service should consider all the material now available in relation to the tragic events on 15 April 1989, including the material made available by the Independent Panel.

"The purpose of this exercise is to identify what the focus of any further criminal investigation should be in order for the CPS to determine whether there is now sufficient evidence to charge any individual or corporate body with any criminal offence."

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group said she was "very pleased" with the dual announcement.

Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son died in the tragedy, added: "We've had the truth, this is the start of justice & accountability."

West Yorkshire Police welcomed the investigations and said they will give their full support to the IPCC investigation.