CPS 'told of Hillsborough cover-up 14 years ago'

Explanation demanded on failure to prosecute

Senior lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) were handed detailed analysis of the police cover-up of the Hillsborough disaster 14 years ago but decided to take no action against any officers involved, the senior lawyer who led a private prosecution on behalf of the families says today.

In a withering attack on the criminal-justice system in The Independent, Alun Jones, QC says the Director of Public Prosecutions needs to explain why his office did "absolutely nothing" in 1998 after considering a line-by-line analysis of tampered reports by South Yorkshire police.

Mr Jones, who led an unsuccessful manslaughter prosecution of the two most senior officers on duty at the ground where 96 Liverpool fans died in 1989, said that police were heavily protected in law during investigations into their conduct and only "herculean" efforts by victims brought the truth to light.

Mr Jones's criticisms came as one of the country's most senior chief constables apologised after suggesting yesterday that the behaviour of the fans on the day of the tragedy had made it harder for police to control the situation.

Sir Norman Bettison, the current head of West Yorkshire Police, headed a team of senior officers charged with putting the case for South Yorkshire police in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. He has fended off calls for his resignation saying he had nothing to do with the cover-up.

However, his intervention on Thursday only increased the anger of the families. In a statement yesterday, he said: "The evidence was overwhelming. The police failed to control the situation, which ultimately led to the tragic deaths of 96 entirely innocent people. I can be no plainer than that and I am sorry if my earlier statement, intended to convey the same message, has caused any further upset."

Mr Jones says that the Hillsborough Family Support Group launched the private prosecution in light of inaction by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to prosecute anyone over the tragedy. The then Home Secretary Jack Straw lodged all the original and amended statements to the House of Commons library in 1998.

"We furnished the DPP, and Attorney General, with an analysis demonstrating the gravity of the conspiracy," Mr Jones writes. He adds: "It is the DPP, particularly, who needs to explain why his office did absolutely nothing." Mr Jones said the analysis was prepared to head off any attempt by the authorities to halt the manslaughter prosecution of David Duckenfield and his deputy Bernard Murray. The private prosecution failed in 2000.

A Crown Prosecution spokesperson said: "The Crown Prosecution Service was approached in 1998 by both parties to the private prosecution and asked to take it over.

"At the time we concluded we would not intervene and the private prosecution went ahead. We provided documentation to the Hillsborough Independent Panel about the reasons behind this decision in 1998 and the Panel has made no criticism of the CPS or the DPP over this." The current head of South Yorkshire police, David Crompton, has said that anyone who is found to have falsified police documents would face criminal investigation.

All the original and amended statements were lodged in the House of Commons library in 1998

Path to justice: A Timeline

15 April 1989: Ninety-six fans die in a crush at the kick-off of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough in Sheffield.

January 1990: Publication of the Taylor Report blames deaths on police losing control and recommends all-seater stadiums and the removal of anti-hooligan fences. Lord Taylor rejects claims fans were drunk.

September 1990: Director of Public Prosecutions concludes there is insufficient evidence to justify proceedings against police or others.

November 1990: Inquests resume. Coroner returns verdicts of accidental death in all cases but no evidence heard is from after 3.15pm on the day of the tragedy.

November 1990: Chief Superintendant David Duckenfield, who was match-day commander, retires from South Yorkshire Police on health grounds. Disciplinary action against him is subsequently dropped.

November 1993: Judicial review into the inquests backs coroner's handling of the case.

December 1996: Jimmy McGovern's Hillsborough TV film highlights new evidence.

1997: Lord Justice Stuart Smith holds "scrutiny" but concludes there is no new evidence to warrant fresh inquests. His findings are accepted by Home Secretary Jack Straw.

July 2000: Private prosecutions against two senior South Yorkshire police officers for manslaughter. Jury is unable to reach a verdict on Chief Superintendant Duckenfield and acquits his deputy superintendant, Bernard Murray.

March 2009: European Court of Human Rights rejects bereaved parent Anne Williams' challenge over the official version of her 15-year-old son's death, claiming he was still alive after 3.15pm. Her challenge is ruled timed out.

2010: Hillsborough Independent Panel begin examining papers.

September 2012: Publication of 450,000 pages of documents.

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
Extras
indybest
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style