Hillsborough: Now CPS is under fire

Senior prosecutor was at 1990 meeting that decided not to read all the eyewitness evidence

One of the most senior officials at the Crown Prosecution Service –which will decide whether South Yorkshire Police should be put in the dock over the Hillsborough disaster – was present when prosecutors decided in 1990 that they did not need to read all of the evidence before ruling out criminal charges.

Mike Kennedy, operations director at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), warned colleagues at the time that it could be "particularly embarrassing" if the public found out that the body had failed to read all the witness statements before reaching their momentous decision on who should be blamed for the tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans died.

The Independent on Sunday understands that the CPS did not consider all the witness statements so they could reach a "speedy conclusion", during a meeting in London nine months after the crush. Rather, they allowed the police to choose the evidence on which prosecutors based their decision.

Minutes of the meeting, released to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, reveal that: "Mr Kennedy indicated that he would be unhappy if that were to occur, particularly as there was a possibility of being discovered at a later stage [that not all the statements had been seen] … this might be particularly embarrassing if a decision not to prosecute was reached." A subsequent legal ruling recorded that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was sent "approximately 11 per cent" of the Hillsborough witness statements.

The revelations put the legal establishment in the spotlight over the official failure to get to the truth of what happened when 96 people died at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989. They also raised questions over whether Mr Kennedy should have any involvement in discussions over what happens next.

The present DPP, Keir Starmer, ordered a fresh inquiry this month after the panel revealed police had changed scores of statements in an attempt to push blame on to the fans. More than 200 serving and former officers are expected to be investigated.

But the CPS "Joint Opinion", issued in August 1990, ruled out charges against any organisations or individuals. The advice, from the late Lord Justice Williams and Peter Birts QC, has been used as a reference point ever since. The Hillsborough panel's report, released last month, stated that the Joint Opinion "was accepted by the CPS, apparently without further consideration".

Minutes from the meeting between Mr Birts, police officers and the CPS in January 1990, state: "There was considerable discussion to whether all the documentation, ie statements should be submitted to counsel [Mr Birts]." The document adds: "Mr Birts indicated he would be quite happy to read everything." The minutes also state that police should be told to "edit out superfluous material" from the statements.

A CPS spokeswoman last night insisted that a fresh team, not including Mr Kennedy, would review Hillsborough. She added: "There were no criticisms of the CPS in the panel report, and we are not specifically reviewing the previous decision-making. The DPP at the time took the advice of two highly distinguished counsel, Peter Birts QC and Gareth Williams QC … However, if when reviewing the material disclosed by the panel we reach different conclusions to those arrived at by the CPS previously, we will inevitably assess how and why any earlier decisions were taken."

Sheila Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said the revelations about the original CPS review were "absolutely disgraceful". She added: "To only go through 11 per cent of the witness statements – it's unbelievable." Neither Mr Birts nor Mr Kennedy was available for comment yesterday.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?