IPCC will not investigate South Yorkshire Police chief David Crompton over conduct at Hillsborough inquest

Police watchdog says although conduct of lawyers 'clearly caused distress' to victims' families there was no evidence of a crime

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The Independent Online

The police watchdog has announced it will not investigate claims that a chief constable instructed lawyers to “pour blame” onto Hillsborough victims at the inquest into the disaster. 

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it would not pursue the claims against suspended South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton as while the approach of some of the legal teams “clearly caused distress” to the victims’ families they could not find evidence of a crime. 

Mr Crompton was told to resign by the families of the 96 Liverpool fans who were crushed to death at the Hillsborough football ground in Sheffield in 1989 for allegedly backtracking on an apology he had made in 2012 and urging the force’s lawyers to pursue an aggressive line of attack on the reputations of the fallen during the two-year inquest. 

In April the inquest exonerated the 96 fans, saying they “played no part in the disaster” and ruled it was an “unlawful killing” – opening up the possibility of criminal charges against the police officers responsible on the day.

In the wake of the verdicts then-shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham accused South Yorkshire Police of "protecting itself above protecting people" during the hearings, and said that the families had been "through hell again" during the protracted case.

He said that millions of pounds of public money had been used to continue a "cover-up" and retell "discredited lies against Liverpool supporters".

In the days following the disaster, members of the South Yorkshire Police made claims repeated by the Sun newspaper that Liverpool fans had urinated on and stolen from the dead and dying which the inquest dismissed.

The IPCC said any inquiry into the instructions claimed to have been given by Mr Crompton would be "significantly hampered" as investigators would not legally be allowed access to communications between the officer and force lawyers.

IPCC Deputy Chair Rachel Cerfontyne said: "The approach taken by some legal teams at the inquests clearly caused distress among those affected by the disaster.

"However, the evidence we have assessed doesn't indicate that a criminal or misconduct offence has occurred.

"This, combined with the fact we cannot review any legal instructions from Mr Crompton to his legal team has led me to conclude that an IPCC investigation could not provide any meaningful response to the complaint."

Allegations that press officer Hayley Court was told to "spin" news from the inquests in favour of the police are being investigated separately by the watchdog and its findings will be published "in the coming weeks".

Trevor Hicks, whose daughters Sarah and Vicki died in the disaster, told the Guardian: "I’m disappointed with it and it looks as though the IPCC has taken the soft option to use what we consider a technicality to brush it away.

"It’s only going to fuel the discontent with the IPCC, and won’t help the said-to-be-genuine desire of South Yorkshire police to build bridges."

Mr Crompton said he would be taking legal action against the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, for asking him to resign last month. 

He said Dr Billings’ decision was “fundamentally wrong” and said he would “shortly be commencing judicial review proceedings in the High Court in order to challenge him."

The BBC reported that Mr Crompton said he had “nothing to resign for”.

Additional reporting by PA