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
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine